The power of the pulse: Ventriflo re-imagines cardiopulmonary support

Is there anything more fundamental to human life than the heartbeat? That thud, thud, thud — that reliable rhythm — is synonymous with being alive.

When a person undergoes open-heart surgery, however, the heartbeat must be interrupted to give surgeons access to that essential organ. The organic pulse is temporarily replaced by a machine that provides continuous blood flow to the body.

Doug Vincent, President and CEO at Design Mentor, Inc., has been studying the ways in which current continuous flow devices fail to provide optimal cardio-pulmonary support. Vincent has designed his own support mechanism device that simulates the natural pulsating rhythm of the heart, called VentriFlo.

“An important feature of pulse power is recovery,” Vincent said during his Ignite Talk at the recent Boston Children’s Hospital Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards. “The system has to reset and recover to prepare for the next power cycle.”

Fifty years ago when heart surgery was developed, it was easier to make reliable continuous flow machines than to try and recreate a pulse during life support. Since that time, relatively little has changed in the design of these devices. But Vincent cited data showing that the longer a patient is on continuous flow, the more likely he or she is to develop complications.

“With continuous flow, 30 percent of the smallest blood vessels fail to open,” said Vincent. “That’s like one third of your body holding its breath.”

Every year, close to 18,000 pediatric and around 800,000 adult patients need full cardiopulmonary support during open heart surgery. 30- 50% of these patients suffer complications, the majority of which have been linked with poor systemic and micro-circulatory perfusion. VentriFlo pump recreates the human heartbeat with a cyclic motor. Vincent believes that this innovation will improve outcomes, shorten lengths of stay and save money for the healthcare system.

“It’s blood flow the way it should be,” he says.

See more posts and videos from the Global Pediatric Innovation Summit.