Does a heart need to beat? Would we be able to replace the heart with something that continuously moves blood around with no pulse (using a pump/compressor of sorts)? Would there be complications by making the flow constant rather than pulsed/beats?
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There is already a device out there that does what you are saying. A lot of people with severe heart damage will get put on a device called an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) which can either assist a damaged heart or just replace it entirely. These devices have a rotor that circulates blood continuously instead of making it pump. It connects to a battery pack outside the body. These people will often have no pulse and by extension no measurable blood pressure because there is no pulsitile motion to measure. These devices are usually used as a temporary measure until a heart donor can be found, but it’s getting more common to be used in those that cannot undergo a heart transplant as well. Here’s some more info if you want to read about it.
Short answer – no, it can work.
With a lot of the early work on artificial hearts and assist devices it was assumed that blood flow had to be pulsatile – which makes sense given the use of stretch receptors in a lot of places to monitor pressure.
However due to elasticity and resistance of the vessels, by capillary level a lot of the pulsatility has gone.
In the end this was solved by people making artificial hearts and assist devices which aren’t pulsatile, and there are people walking around with them today.
Extra corporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, is a device that removes deoxygenated blood from the body and turns it into oxygenated blood via a huge pump and then returns it back to the body. In lay terms, long term heart and lung bypass. There are two kinds, VA and VV ECMO. VA or veno-arterial uses the venous system and the arterial system and can provide cardiac support; both the heart and lungs can rest while this pump does all the work. Then there’s VV or veno-venous; it returns blood to venous system and provides no cardiac support, mainly for lungs to rest.
I work at a children’s hospital and we use ECMO in all three of our ICUs, the NICU, PICU, and CICU or cardiac.
Not sure if this answers the question of if we need a heart beat, but if capable, people can walk on ECMO and don’t need to be restricted to a bed but obviously do need to be in hospital. LVADs I believe can be used outside of hospitals, people can go home with those.