Abstract

Ventricular assist devices (VAD) are designed to provide circulatory support to patients suffering from advanced-stage heart failure. While not pulsatile, the advantages of continuous axial flow VADs include a compact size and low mechanical failure rate. However, being compact, they operate at high speed, resulting in adverse effects, such as hemolysis caused by high flow shear and thrombosis formation in stagnant regions are common and threaten the successful use of the device. While state-of-the-art computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is widely used in designing these devices, detailed high-resolution experimental measurements of the flow within them are not readily available in the literature. Such experimental data is crucial for understanding the flow inside the VAD and its interaction with blood cells as well as for validating the CFD predictions. The present study investigates the flow inside a 1:1 exact replica of a VAD – ReliantHeart HeartAssist5®. This 12mm diameter device consists of an inlet guide vane (IGV), a rotor and a stator. However, unlike in the real machine, the rotor is driven by a thin shaft that penetrates through the center of the IGV. Refractive index-matching is used to facilitate optical measurements. Hence, all the blades and housing of the pump are made of transparent acrylic. The working fluid is a mixture of water, sodium iodide and glycerin, which matches the refractive index of acrylic, and the kinematic viscosity of blood. Performance tests have been carried out at speeds ranging from 7000 to 9000 RPM. Trends of the results are consistent with those of the actual machine. While scaled data for the pressure rise across the rotor at different speeds collapse, the total head rise across the entire machine does not. High-resolution 2D PIV measurements with vector spacing of 30μm have been conducted in meridional planes of the rotor passage at several blade orientations. They have been performed at 8000RPM and flowrate of 4.5L/min, consistent with physiological requirements. They show that near the rotor front end, the flow in the tip region is dominated by the tip leakage vortex (TLV), associated blockage effects, and very high turbulence level. The upstream end of this domain remains aligned with the leading edge, implying that blades persistently dissect the remnants of a previous TLVs. Interaction of the hub boundary layer with the blades also generates secondary flows. Downstream of the helical section of the rotor, the axial flow is high near the hub and low in the outer part of the passage due to leakage flow-related blockage. Hub boundary layer separation occurs upstream of the stator, generating a large circumferential vortex that occupies nearly half of the rotor span. The complexity of the flow structure and turbulence in this machine would be a challenge to model.

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