Investigation of the Axial Gap Clearance in a Hydrodynamic-Passive Magnetically Levitated Rotary Blood Pump Using X-Ray Radiography

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The HeartWare HVAD is a radial rotary blood pump with a combination of passive magnetic and hydrodynamic bearings to levitate the impeller. The axial gap size between impeller and housing in this bearing and its sensitivity to speed, flow, and pressure difference is difficult to assess. Shear stresses are exceptionally high in this tiny gap making it important for blood damage and related adverse events. Therefore, the aim of this study was to measure the axial gap clearance in the HVAD at different operating conditions employing radiography. To quantify the gap size in the HVAD, the pump was positioned 30 mm in front of the X-ray source employing a microfocus X-ray tube with an acceleration voltage up to 300 kV. Beams were detected on a flat panel detector (Perkin Elmer XRD 1611-CP3). The pump was connected to a tubing circuit with a throttle to adjust flow (0, 5, 10 L/min) and a water glycerol mixture to set the desired viscosity (1, 4, 8 mPas). Rotational speed was varied between 1800 and 3600 rpm. In this study, for clinically relevant conditions at 5 L/min and 2700 rpm, the axial gap was 22 μm. The gap size increased with rotational speeds dependent on the viscosity (2.8, 6.9, and 9.4 μm/1000 rpm for 1, 4, and 8 mPas, respectively), but was independent from the volume flow and the pressure head at constant speeds. In summary, using X-ray radiographic imaging small gaps in a rotary blood pump during operation can be measured in a nondestructive contact-free way. The axial hydrodynamic bearing gap in the HVAD pump was determined to be in the range of about three times the diameter of a red blood cell. Its dependence on operating volume flow and generated pressure head across the pump is not pronounced.

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