Using thermochromism to simulate blood oxygenation in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
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Introduction: Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) training programs employ real ECMO components, causing them to be extremely expensive while offering little realism in terms of blood oxygenation and pressure. To overcome those limitations, we are developing a standalone modular ECMO simulator that reproduces ECMO's visual, audio and haptic cues using affordable mechanisms. We present a central component of this simulator, capable of visually reproducing blood oxygenation color change using thermochromism. Methods: Our simulated ECMO circuit consists of two physically distant modules, responsible for adding and withdrawing heat from a thermochromic fluid. This manipulation of heat creates a temperature difference between the fluid in the drainage line and the fluid in the return line of the circuit and, hence, a color difference. Results: Thermochromic ink mixed with concentrated dyes was used to create a recipe for a realistic and affordable blood-colored fluid. The implemented ECMO circuit reproduced blood's oxygenation and deoxygenation color difference or lack thereof. The heat control circuit costs 300 USD to build and the thermochromic fluid costs 40 USD/L. During a ten-hour in situ demonstration, nineteen ECMO specialists rated the fidelity of the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood and the color contrast between them as highly realistic. Conclusions: Using low-cost yet high-fidelity simulation mechanisms, we implemented the central subsystem of our modular ECMO simulator, which creates the look and feel of an ECMO circuit without using an actual one.