The importance of venous return in starling-like control of rotary ventricular assist devices

Andrew Stephens, Shaun David Gregory, Robert Francis Salamonsen

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Rotary ventricular assist devices (VADs) are less sensitive to preload than the healthy heart, resulting in inadequate flow regulation in response to changes in patient cardiac demand. Starling-like physiological controllers (SLCs) have been developed to automatically regulate VAD flow based on ventricular preload. An SLC consists of a cardiac response curve (CRC) which imposes a nonlinear relationship between VAD flow and ventricular preload, and a venous return line (VRL) which determines the return path of the controller. This study investigates the importance of a physiological VRL in SLC of dual rotary blood pumps for biventricular support. Two experiments were conducted on a physical mock circulation loop (MCL); the first compared an SLC with an angled physiological VRL (SLC-P) against an SLC with a vertical VRL (SLC-V). The second experiment quantified the benefit of a dynamic VRL, represented by a series of specific VRLs, which could adapt to different circulatory states including changes in pulmonary (PVR) and systemic (SVR) vascular resistance versus a fixed physiological VRL which was calculated at rest. In both sets of experiments, the transient controller responses were evaluated through reductions in preload caused by the removal of fluid from the MCL. The SLC-P produced no overshoot or oscillations following step changes in preload, whereas SLC-V produced 0.4 L/min (12.5%) overshoot for both left and right VADs. Additionally, the SLC-V had increased settling time and reduced controller stability as evidenced by transient controller oscillations. The transient results comparing the specific and standard VRLs demonstrated that specific VRL rise times were improved by between 1.2 and 4.7 s ((Formula presented.) = 3.05 s), while specific VRL settling times were improved by between 2.8 and 16.1 seconds ((Formula presented.) = 8.38 s) over the standard VRL. This suggests only a minor improvement in controller response time from a dynamic VRL compared to the fixed VRL. These results indicate that the use of a fixed physiologically representative VRL is adequate over a wide variety of physiological conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E16-E27
Number of pages12
JournalArtificial Organs
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Cardiovascular physiology
  • Physiological control
  • Rotary blood pump
  • Starling mechanism
  • Starling-like control
  • Ventricular assist device

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