Numerical Investigation of the Influence of Blade Radial Gap Flow on Axial Blood Pump Performance

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The gaps between the blades and the shroud (or hub) of an axial blood pump affect the hydraulics, efficiency, and hemolytic performance. These gaps are critical parameters when a blood pump is manufactured. To evaluate the influence of blade gaps on axial blood pump performance, the flow characteristics inside an axial blood pump with different radial blade gaps were numerically simulated and analyzed with special attention paid to the hydraulic characteristics, gap flow, hydraulic efficiency, and hemolysis index (HI). In vitro hydraulic testing and particle image velocimetry testing were conducted to verify the numerical results. The simulation results showed that the efficiency and pressure rise decreased when the gap increased. The efficiency of the axial blood pump at design point decreased from 37.1% to 27.1% and the pressure rise decreased from 127.4 to 71.2 mm Hg when the gap increased from 0.1 to 0.3 mm. Return and vortex flows were present in the outlet guide vane channels when the gap was larger than 0.2 mm. The HI of the blood pump with a 0.1 mm gap was 1.5-fold greater than that with a 0.3 mm gap. The results illustrated poor hydraulic characteristics when the gap was larger than 0.15 mm and rapidly deteriorated hemolysis when the gap was larger than 0.1 mm. The numerical and experimental results demonstrated that the pressure rise, pump efficiency, and scalar shear stress decreased when the gap increased. The HI did not strictly decrease with gap increases. The preliminary results encourage the improvement of axial blood pump designs.

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