A Starling-like total work controller for rotary blood pumps: an in vitro evaluation

Eric L. Wu, Michael C. Stevens, Frank Nestler, Jo P. Pauls, Andrew P. Bradley, Geoff Tansley, John F. Fraser, Shaun D. Gregory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Due to improved durability and survival rates, rotary blood pumps (RBPs) are the preferred left ventricular assist device when compared to volume displacement pumps. However, when operated at constant speed, RBPs lack a volume balancing mechanism which may result in left ventricular suction and suboptimal ventricular unloading. Starling-like controllers have previously been developed to balance circulatory volumes; however, they do not consider ventricular workload as a feedback and may have limited sensitivity to adjust RBP workload when ventricular function deteriorates or improves. To address this, we aimed to develop a Starling-like total work controller (SL-TWC) that matched the energy output of a healthy heart by adjusting RBP hydraulic work based on measured left ventricular stroke work and ventricular preload. In a mock circulatory loop, the SL-TWC was evaluated using a HeartWare HVAD in a range of simulated patient conditions. These conditions included changes in systemic hypertension and hypotension, pulmonary hypertension, blood circulatory volume, exercise, and improvement and deterioration of ventricular function by increasing and decreasing ventricular contractility. The SL-TWC was compared to constant speed control where RBP speed was set to restore cardiac output to 5.0 L/min at rest. Left ventricular suction occurred with constant speed control during pulmonary hypertension but was prevented with the SL-TWC. During simulated exercise, the SL-TWC demonstrated reduced LVSW (0.51 J) and greater RBP flow (9.2 L/min) compared to constant speed control (LVSW: 0.74 J and RBP flow: 6.4 L/min). In instances of increased ventricular contractility, the SL-TWC reduced RBP hydraulic work while maintaining cardiac output similar to the rest condition. In comparison, constant speed overworked and increased cardiac output. The SL-TWC balanced circulatory volumes by mimicking the Starling mechanism, while also considering changes in ventricular workload. Compared to constant speed control, the SL-TWC may reduce complications associated with volume imbalances, adapt to changes in ventricular function and improve patient quality of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E40-E53
Number of pages14
JournalArtificial Organs
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • left ventricular assist device
  • physiological control
  • Starling control
  • ventricular suction

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