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Artif Organs. 2011 Aug;35(8):773-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1594.2011.01330.x.

Intuitive use and usability of ventricular assist device peripheral components in simulated emergency conditions.

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Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, Medical University of Vienna Ludwig-Boltzmann-Cluster for Cardiovascular Research, Vienna, Austria.


Ventricular assist devices (VADs) are now increasingly used to prolong the lives of end-stage heart failure patients. These patients vary greatly in age, alertness, activity, and home environment. In daily routine, but especially in emergencies or in conjunction with non-VAD-correlated diseases, the untrained, intuitive use and application of VAD peripherals by relatives, laypersons, and paramedics becomes important. Correct intuitive use may be a matter of life and death. The aim of this study was to evaluate the intuitive usability of these systems and to identify key features needed to optimize intuitive use. Paramedics (n=96) were confronted with a simulated emergency situation involving VAD peripherals mounted on a dummy. Three conditions were simulated: the VAD disconnected from its power source (n=44); both VAD batteries empty (n=44); and a discharged VAD battery mistakenly connected in place of a charged one (n=8). Two VAD systems were assessed: the Heartware HVAD and the Thoratec HeartMate II. An appropriate emergency card developed by our center was available in each case. Actions were videotaped, response times were measured, and a standardized questionnaire was completed after the simulation. The problem was solved by 71% of the participants (HVAD 83%, HMII 60%) with 87% using the emergency card. Only 4% could solve the problem without. Cardiac massage, which was unnecessary, was started by 44%, while 18% complained about unnecessarily difficult conditions (e.g., irritation from the acoustic alarm, complexity of the emergency card, error-prone procedures). Better component labeling (e.g., displays, control elements, connectors) was recommended by 56%. A thoroughly color-coded connection system was especially desired. Cable- and connector-related difficulties were reported by 23%. The study indicated that VAD systems should be self-explaining, with clear labeling of components and connectors, that a clearer emergency card is pivotal and that similar basic handling and emergency procedures for all VAD types would be desirable.

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