Effects of Pulsatile Blood Flow on Oxygenator Performance

Lotte Schraven, Andreas Kaesler, Christian Flege, Rüdger Kopp, Thomas Schmitz-Rode, Ulrich Steinseifer, Jutta Arens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is mainly used for the therapy of acute respiratory distress syndrome and chronic obstructive lung disease. In the last years, the development of these systems underwent huge steps in optimization, but there are still problems with thrombus formation, clogging, and thus insufficient gas exchange. One idea of ECMO optimization is a pulsatile blood flow through the oxygenator, but this is still a controversy discussion. Analyzing available publications, it was not possible to identify a general statement about the effect of pulsatile blood flow on the gas exchange performance. The variety of parameters and circuit components have such a high influence on the outcome that a direct comparison of the studies is difficult. For this reason, we performed a structured study to evaluate the effects of pulsatile blood flow on the gas exchange performance of oxygenator. In in vitro tests according to DIN EN ISO 7199, we tested a small oxygenator (0.25 m2 exchange surface, polymethylpentene fibers, 33 mL priming volume) with constant and pulsatile blood flow in comparison. Therefore, we varied the mean blood flow from 250 to 1200 mL/min, the amplitude of 0, 20, and 50%, and the frequency of 30, 60, and 90 bpm. The results demonstrate that the gas transfer for pulsatile and constant blood flow was similar (oxygen: 36–64 mLO2/LBlood; carbon dioxide 35–80 mLCO2/LBlood) for the same mean blood flow ranges. Over all, the results and analyses showed a statistically nonsignificant difference between pulsatile and nonpulsatile flow. Consequently, we conclude that the implementation of pulsatile blood flow has only a small to no effect on the gas exchange performance in an oxygenator. As the results were obtained using an oxygenator with a coiled fiber bundle, the test must be verified for a stacked fiber oxygenator.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-419
Number of pages10
JournalArtificial organs
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Pulsatile blood flow
  • Extracorporeal lung assist
  • Gas exchange
  • Oxygenator


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