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In vitro evaluation of the potential of a circulatory-assist device to damage blood cells has generally been performed using blood from various species. Problems with this approach include the variability of blood sensitivity to mechanical stress in different species, preparation of blood including the adjustment of hematocrit to a standard value, changes in the mechanical properties of blood that occur during storage, and necessity to pool blood samples to obtain an adequate amount of blood for in vitro circulating systems. We investigated whether the mechanical degradation of a drag-reducing polymer (DRP) solution resulting in the loss of drag-reducing ability can indicate the degree of shear-induced blood damage within blood pumps. DRP solution (polyethylene oxide, 4,500 kDa, 1,000 ppm) or porcine blood were driven through a turbulent flow system by a centrifugal pump, either the Bio-Pump BPX-80 (Medtronic, Inc.) or CentriMag (Levitronix LLC) at a constant pressure gradient of 300 mm Hg for 120 minutes. DRP mechanical degradation was evaluated by reduction of flow rate and solution viscosity. A proposed index of DRP mechanical degradation (PDI) is similar to the normalized index of hemolysis (NIH) typically used to quantify the results of in vitro testing of blood pumps. Results indicate that the mechanical degradation of DRP solutions may provide a sensitive standard method for the evaluation of potential blood trauma produced by blood pumps without the use of blood.

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