The cardiopulmonary bypass machine gleams in a corner of the operating room, a massive device with a critical job: to pump blood during open-heart surgery. It's designed for adults, and its circuit capacity can't be reduced for the much lower blood volume and higher circulation of infants, whose blood can become dangerously diluted and damaged traveling through the machine.
"Full-size bypass machines are hard on infants," says Children's Hospital Colorado Chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery and pediatric heart surgeon James Jaggers, MD, who knows this machine well and has used it many times.
A smaller machine for pint-sized patients
That simple idea led Dr. Jaggers, along with a diverse team of perfusionists, bioengineers and veterinarians, to develop the miniaturized cardiopulmonary bypass external compression pump. A reimagining of the bypass machine on a much smaller scale, the new machine employs a cam device to propel blood through tubes in a way that had never been done before.
The design, currently in testing, began as a way to assist circulation in patients with single ventricle disease. But as things progressed, Dr. Jaggers and his team realized it had wider applications.
Discovering even more benefits
The pump's small scale is ideal for infants and children, but its potential portability applies to adults as well. The tubing is completely interchangeable: for adults, a surgical team could simply use a bigger tube.
"This machine could be in a case about the size of a shoebox," says Dr. Jaggers. "It could be used in the field or in a military setting. It could be adapted for transport from one place to another, from one city to another. It could become a very small IV pump that you hook to your belt."
Better still, the pump's unique architecture minimizes injury to the blood as it passes through. It's a safer, more effective machine at less than a tenth of the size.
"It works for all patients," says Dr. Jaggers. "We believe it will be a big advancement in care."
Learn more about our Heart Institute at Children's Colorado.