Left ventricular unloading during veno-arterial ECMO: A simulation study

Dirk W. Donker, Daniel Brodie, José P.S. Henriques, Michael Broomé*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


Veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA ECMO) is widely used in cardiogenic shock. It provides systemic perfusion, but left ventricular (LV) unloading is suboptimal. Using a closed-loop, real-time computer model of the human cardiovascular system, cardiogenic shock supported by peripheral VA ECMO was simulated, and effects of various adjunct LV unloading interventions were quantified. After VA ECMO initiation (4 L/min) in cardiogenic shock (baseline), hemodynamics improved (increased to 85 mm Hg), while LV overload occurred (10% increase in end-diastolic volume [EDV], and 5 mm Hg increase in pulmonary capillary wedge pressure [PCWP]). Decreasing afterload (65 mm Hg mean arterial pressure) and circulating volume (-800 mL) reduced LV overload (12% decrease in EDV and 37% decrease in PCWP) compared with baseline. Additional intra-aortic balloon pumping only marginally decreased cardiac loading. Instead, adjunct Impella™ enhanced LV unloading (23% decrease in EDV and 41% decrease in PCWP). Alternative interventions, for example, left atrial/ventricular venting, yielded substantial unloading. We conclude that real-time simulations may provide quantitative clinical measures of LV overload, depending on the degree of VA ECMO support and adjunct management. Simulations offer insights into individualized LV unloading interventions in cardiogenic shock supported by VA ECMO as a proof of concept for potential future applications in clinical decision support, which may help to improve individualized patient management in complex cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-20
Number of pages10
JournalASAIO Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • cardiogenic shock
  • cardiovascular modeling
  • computer simulation
  • extracorporeal life support
  • Veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation


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