An oxygenator or artificial lung adds oxygen to the patient’s blood and removes carbon dioxide.
In open heart surgery, a heart-lung-machine is used for temporary replacement of the functions of both the heart and the lungs. This is necessary to enable the surgeon to perform the complicated surgical procedure in a motionless field. Both heart and lungs are rested during surgery. The oxygenator with membranes inside is the main element in the heart-lung-machine, responsible for gas exchange.
In intensive care and interventional pneumology, innovative artifical lungs provide extracorporeal removal of carbon dioxide and oxygen enrichment of the blood. This gives the human lungs time to heal. Similar to heart surgery, special membranes in the membrane ventilator assume the fuction of the pulmonary alveoli.
In both applications, a heat exchanger is often used. As large volumes of blood are channeled outside the patient’s body, temperature fluctuations may easily occur. The heat exchanger allows adjustment of the patient’s blood temperature. This way the body temperature can be regulated according to the necessities of the medical procedure.
Extracorporeal Gas Exchange
For oxygenation, blood is drained from the venous circulation in a blood reservoir by a suction pump, passed through the oxygenator, and then subsequently pumped back into the arterial circulation, often via an arterial filter.