Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Joseph B. Zwischenberger


The functional performance of membrane oxygenators is directly related to the perfusion dynamics of blood flow through the fiber bundle. Non-uniform flow and design characteristics can limit gas exchange efficiency and influence susceptibility of thrombus development in the fiber membrane. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is a powerful tool for predicting properties of the flow field based on prescribed geometrical domains and boundary conditions. Validation of numerical results in membrane oxygenators has been predominantly based on experimental pressure measurements with little emphasis placed on confirmation of the velocity fields due to opacity of the fiber membrane and limitations of optical velocimetric methods.

A novel approach was developed using biplane X-ray digital subtraction angiography to visualize flow through a commercial membrane artificial lung at 1–4.5 L/min. Permeability based on the coefficients of the Ergun equation, α and β, were experimentally determined to be 180 and 2.4, respectively, and the equivalent spherical diameter was shown to be approximately equal to the outer fiber diameter. For all flow rates tested, biplane image projections revealed non-uniform radial perfusion through the annular fiber bundle, yet without flow bias due to the axisymmetric position of the outlet. At 1 L/min, approximately 78.2% of the outward velocity component was in the radial (horizontal) plane verses 92.0% at 4.5 L/min. The CFD studies were unable to predict the non-radial component of the outward perfusion.

Two-dimensional velocity fields were generated from the radiographs using a cross-correlation tracking algorithm and compared with analogous image planes from the CFD simulations. Velocities in the non-porous regions differed by an average of 11% versus the experimental values, but simulated velocities in the fiber bundle were on average 44% lower than experimental. A corrective factor reduced the average error differences in the porous medium to 6%. Finally, biplane image pairs were reconstructed to show 3-D transient perfusion through the device.

The methods developed from this research provide tools for more accurate assessments of fluid flow through membrane oxygenators. By identifying non-invasive techniques to allow direct analysis of numerical and experimental velocity fields, researchers can better evaluate device performance of new prototype designs.