Continuous-flow left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) produces supraphysiologic shear stress that causes von Willebrand factor (VWF) degradation and a bleeding diathesis. Reduction of revolutions per minute (RPM) with axial-flow LVADs does not decrease shear stress enough to reduce VWF degradation and bleeding. However, it is unknown if RPM reduction with centrifugal flow LVADs may minimize VWF degradation. We tested the hypothesis that RPM reduction preserves VWF multimers in the centrifugal-flow EVAHEART left ventricular assist system (LVAS), which is designed to minimize shear stress and blood trauma.
Whole blood samples were collected from humans (n = 28). Blood was circulated in ex vivo mock circulatory loops for 6 hours with an EVAHEART LVAS at 2300 (n = 12), 2100 (n = 8), or 1800 RPM (n = 8). Immunoblotting was used to resolve and quantify VWF multimers and degradation fragments.
RPM reduction from 2300 to 2100 to 1800 RPM significantly decreased EVAHEART blood flow from 5.8 ± 0.4 to 4.3 ± 0.6 to 4.1 ± 0.5 L/min (analysis of variance [ANOVA], P = .03). RPM reduction protected VWF from pathologic degradation. At lower RPMs, significantly greater levels of VWF multimers were observed (ANOVA, P = .001). Similarly, at lower RPMs, significantly fewer VWF fragments, a product of VWF degradation, were observed (ANOVA, P = .007).
RPM reduction significantly reduced VWF degradation with the centrifugal-flow EVAHEART LVAS, an LVAD specifically designed with low shear stress. Different LVADs have unique hematologic footprints and should be managed with device-specific protocols. Adjustment of RPM to minimize blood trauma while still maintaining physiologic hemodynamics has the potential to decrease complications related to LVAD-associated von Willebrand’s disease, such as gastrointestinal bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke.

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