Low-flow assessment of current ECMO/ECCO2R rotary blood pumps and the potential effect on hemocompatibility

Sascha Groß-Hardt (Corresponding Author), Felix Hesselmann, Jutta Arens, Ulrich Steinseifer, Leen Verkcaemst, Wolfram Windisch, Dan Brodie, Christian Karagiannidis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal (ECCO2R) uses an extracorporeal circuit to directly remove carbon dioxide from the blood either in lieu of mechanical ventilation or in combination with it. While the potential benefits of the technology are leading to increasing use, there are very real risks associated with it. Several studies demonstrated major bleeding and clotting complications, often associated with hemolysis and poorer outcomes in patients receiving ECCO2R. A better understanding of the risks originating specifically from the rotary blood pump component of the circuit is urgently needed.

Methods: High-resolution computational fluid dynamics was used to calculate the hemodynamics and hemocompatibility of three current rotary blood pumps for various pump flow rates.

Results: The hydraulic efficiency dramatically decreases to 5–10% if operating at blood flow rates below 1 L/min, the pump internal flow recirculation rate increases 6–12-fold in these flow ranges, and adverse effects are increased due to multiple exposures to high shear stress. The deleterious consequences include a steep increase in hemolysis and destruction of platelets.

Conclusions: The role of blood pumps in contributing to adverse effects at the lower blood flow rates used during ECCO2R is shown here to be significant. Current rotary blood pumps should be used with caution if operated at blood flow rates below 2 L/min, because of significant and high recirculation, shear stress, and hemolysis. There is a clear and urgent need to design dedicated blood pumps which are optimized for blood flow rates in the range of 0.5–1.5 L/min.
Original languageEnglish
Article number348
Number of pages9
JournalCritical care
Issue number1
Early online dateNov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • ARDS
  • Centrifugal blood pumps
  • ECCO R
  • ECLS
  • ECMO


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