Carbon dioxide transfer is increased when the gas phase of a hollow fiber membrane lung is operated at hypobaric pressures. Oxygen transfer is augmented by hyperbaric pressures. However, uncoated hollow fibers transmit gas bubbles into the blood when operated at a pressure greater than 800 mmHg and may have increased plasma leakage when operated at hypobaric pressures. Ultrathin polymer coatings may avoid this problem while reducing thrombogenicity. The authors coated microporous polypropylene hollow fibers with 380 μm outer diameter and 50 μm walls using 1, 2, 3, and 4% solutions of polysulfone in tetrahydrofuran by dipping or continuous pull through. These fibers were mounted in small membrane lung prototypes having surface areas of 70 and 187 cm2. In gas-to-gas testing, the longer the exposure time to the solution and the greater the polymer concentration, the less the permeation rate. The 3% solutions blocked bulk gas flow. The coating was 1 μm thick by mass balance calculations. During water-to-gas tests, hypobaric gas pressures of 40 mmHg absolute were tolerated, but CO2 transfer was reduced to 40% of the bare fibers. Hyperbaric gas pressures of 2,100 mmHg absolute tripled O2 transfer without bubble formation.
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