- BACKGROUND: The left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a bridging mechanism for patients with severe heart failure to remain viable until heart transplantation. The rate of cerebral embolism has been reported as high as 47% in some studies but the rate of other neurologic complications in patients with LVADs is not known. METHODS: Retrospective chart review of all patients who had LVADs implanted at our hospital from September 1993 until September 1997. Complications from the time of implantation until heart transplantation or death and functional outcome were assessed. RESULTS: Twenty-three patients had LVADs placed in the four-year period. Of 23 patients, 9 had neurologic complications after placement of the LVAD. These included four strokes, three seizures, and two cases of delirium. The 3 patients with seizures all died from multiorgan failure. All of the patients with strokes received a transplant. One patient with delirium died from multiorgan failure and another received a transplant. The most devastating medical complication was renal failure, which occurred in 7 patients and was associated with 100% mortality. All surviving patients with neurologic complications went on to transplant and good functional outcome. CONCLUSIONS: Neurologic complications are common in patients with LVADs, occurring in 9 out of 23 patients in our series. Seizures are a poor prognostic indicator and were associated with 100% mortality. Strokes did not have a negative impact on outcome. Patients with delirium had a mixed outcome, which reflects the multifactorial nature of delirium. Further study needs to be done to limit the neurologic complications associated with LVADs and further improve outcomes.