Peripheral veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA ECMO) creates a retrograde flow along the aorta competing with the left ventricle (LV) in the so-called ‘mixing zone’ (MZ). Detecting it is essential to understand which of the LV or the ECMO flow perfuses the upper body – particularly the brain and the coronary arteries – in case of differential hypoxemia (DH).
We described a mock circulation loop (MCL) that enabled experimental research on DH. We recreated the three clinical situations relevant to clinicians: where the brain is either totally perfused by the ECMO or the LV or both. In a second step, we used this model to investigate two scenarios to diagnose DH: (i) pulse pressure and (ii) thermodilution via injection of cold saline in the ECMO circuit.
The presented MCL was able to reproduce the three relevant mixing zones within the aortic arch, thus allowing to study DH. Pulse pressure was unable to detect location of the MZ. However, the thermodilution method was able to detect whether the brain was totally perfused by the ECMO or not.
We validated an in-vitro differential hypoxemia model of cardiogenic shock supported by VA ECMO. This MCL could be used as an alternative to animal studies for research scenarios.