Hemolysis at low blood flow rates: in-vitro and in-silico evaluation of a centrifugal blood pump

Schöps, Malte; Groß-Hardt, Sascha H.; Schmitz-Rode, Thomas; Steinseifer, Ulrich; Brodie, Daniel; Clauser, Johanna C.; Karagiannidis, Christian

Treating severe forms of the acute respiratory distress syndrome and cardiac failure, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) has become an established therapeutic option. Neonatal or pediatric patients receiving ECMO, and patients undergoing extracorporeal CO2 removal (ECCO2R) represent low-flow applications of the technology, requiring lower blood flow than conventional ECMO. Centrifugal blood pumps as a core element of modern ECMO therapy present favorable operating characteristics in the high blood flow range (4 L/min–8 L/min). However, during low-flow applications in the range of 0.5 L/min–2 L/min, adverse events such as increased hemolysis, platelet activation and bleeding complications are reported frequently.

In this study, the hemolysis of the centrifugal pump DP3 is evaluated both in vitro and in silico, comparing the low-flow operation at 1 L/min to the high-flow operation at 4 L/min.

Increased hemolysis occurs at low-flow, both in vitro and in silico. The in-vitro experiments present a sixfold higher relative increased hemolysis at low-flow. Compared to high-flow operation, a more than 3.5-fold increase in blood recirculation within the pump head can be observed in the low-flow range in silico.

This study highlights the underappreciated hemolysis in centrifugal pumps within the low-flow range, i.e. during pediatric ECMO or ECCO2R treatment. The in-vitro results of hemolysis and the in-silico computational fluid dynamic simulations of flow paths within the pumps raise awareness about blood damage that occurs when using centrifugal pumps at low-flow operating points. These findings underline the urgent need for a specific pump optimized for low-flow treatment. Due to the inherent problems of available centrifugal pumps in the low-flow range, clinicians should use the current centrifugal pumps with caution, alternatively other pumping principles such as positive displacement pumps may be discussed in the future.


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Also Published In

Journal of Translational Medicine

More About This Work

Published Here
December 20, 2022


Hemolysis, Off-design point, Pediatric patients, ECMO, ECCO2R, Centrifugal blood pumps, Extracorporeal circulation