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J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2015 Oct;150(4):938-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2015.06.049. Epub 2015 Jun 30.

High-speed visualization of disturbed pathlines in axial flow ventricular assist device under pulsatile conditions.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Department of Cardiovascular Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa. Electronic address:



To investigate potentially prothrombotic flow patterns within an axial flow ventricular assist device under clinically relevant pulsatile hemodynamic conditions.


A transparent replica of the HeartMate-II left ventricular assist device (Thoratec, Pleasanton, Calif) was visualized using a high speed camera at both low and high frame rates (125 and 3000 fps). Three steady-state conditions were studied: nominal (4.5 lpm), low flow (3.0 lpm), and high flow (6.0 lpm). Time-varying conditions were introduced with an external pulsatile pump that modulated the flow rate by approximately ± 50% of the mean, corresponding to a pulsatility index of 1.0.


At nominal and high flow rates, the path lines within the upstream region were generally stable, well attached, and streamlined. As the flow rate was reduced below 3.8 lpm, a rapid transition to a chaotic velocity field occurred, exhibiting a large toroidal vortex adjacent to the upstream bearing. The pathlines in the downstream stator section were consistently chaotic for all hemodynamic conditions investigated. It was common to observe tracer particles trapped within recirculation bubbles and drawn retrograde, causing repeated contact with the bearing surfaces. The addition of pulsatility caused the flow field to become periodically chaotic during the diastolic portion of the cardiac cycle depending on the instantaneous flow rate and acceleration.


The contribution of pulsatility by the native heart may induce a periodic disturbance to an otherwise stable flow field within an axial flow ventricular assist device, particularly during the diastolic and decelerating portion of the cardiac cycle. Potentially prothrombotic flow features were found to occur periodically in the region of the upstream bearing.


continuous flow VAD; flow visualization; hemodynamics; pulsatility; thrombosis

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