Turbulence measurements in an axial rotary blood pump with laser Doppler velocimetry.

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The implantation of rotary blood pumps as ventricular assist devices (VADs) has become a viable therapy for quite a number of patients with end-stage heart failure. However, these rotary blood pumps cause adverse events that are related to blood trauma. It is currently believed that turbulence in the pump flow plays a significant role. But turbulence has not been measured to date because there is no optical access to the flow space in rotary blood pumps because of their opaque casings.


This difficulty is overcome with a scaled-up model of the HeartMate II (HM II) rotary blood pump with a transparent acrylic housing. A 2-component laser Doppler velocimetry (LDV) system was used for the measurement of time resolved velocity profiles and velocity spectra upstream and downstream of the rotor blades. Observing similarity laws, the speed and pump head were adjusted to correspond closely to the design point of the original pump - 10,600 rpm speed and 80 mmHg pressure head. A model fluid consisting of a water-glycerol mixture was used.


The measured velocity spectra were scalable by the Kolmogorov length and the Kolmogorov length was estimated to be between 14 and 24 µm at original scale, thus being about 1.5 to 3 times the size of a red blood cell.


It can be concluded that turbulence is indeed present in the investigated blood pump and that it can be described by Kolmogorov's theory of turbulence. The size of the smallest vortices compares well to the turbulence length scales as found in prosthetic heart valves, for example.

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