Although gravity drainage has been the standard technique for cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB), the development of min imally invasive techniques for cardiac surgery has renewed interest in using vacuum assisted venous drainage (VAVD) Dideco (Mirandola, Italy) has modified the D903 Avant oxygenator to apply a vacuum to its venous reservoir. The impact of VAVD on blood damage with this device is analyzed. Six calves (mean body weight, 71.3 +/- 4.1 kg) were con nected to CPB by jugular venous and carotid arterial cannu lation, with a flow rate of 4-4.51 L/min for 6 h. They were assigned to gravity drainage (standard D903 Avant oxygen ator, n = 3) or VAVD (modified D903 Avant oxygenator, n = 3). The animals were allowed to survive for 7 days. A standard battery of blood samples was taken before bypass, throughout bypass, and 24 h, 48 h, and 7 days after bypass. Analysis of variance was used for repeated measurements. Thrombocyte and white blood cell counts, corrected by hematocrit and normalized by prebypass values, were not significantly different between groups throughout all study periods. The same holds true for hemolytic parameters (lactate dehydrogenase [LDH] and plasma hemoglobin). Both peaked at 24 hr in the standard and VAVD groups: LDH, 2,845 +/- 974 IU/L vs. 2,537 +/- 476 IU/L (p = 0.65), respectively; and plasma hemoglobin, 115 +/- 31 mg/L vs. 89 +/- 455 mg/L (p = 0.45), respectively. In this experimental setup with prolonged perfusion time, VAVD does not increase trauma to blood cells in comparison with standard gravity drainage.