Ten thousand kilometre transfer of cardiogenic shock patients on venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for emergency heart transplantation: Cooperation between Reunion Island and Metropolitan France

Clément Charon, Jérôme Allyn, Bruno Bouchet, Fréderic Nativel, Eric Braunberger, Caroline Brulliard, Olivier Martinet, Nicolas Allou
European Heart Journal. Acute Cardiovascular Care 2018, 7 (4): 371-378

BACKGROUND: There is no heart transplantation centre on the French overseas territory of Reunion Island (distance of 10,000 km). The aim of this study was to describe the characteristics of cardiogenic shock adult patients on venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO) who were transferred from Reunion Island to mainland France for emergency heart transplantation.

METHODS: This retrospective observational study was conducted between 2005 and 2015. The characteristics and outcome of cardiogenic shock patients on VA-ECMO were compared with those of cardiogenic shock patients not on VA-ECMO.

RESULTS: Thirty-three cardiogenic shock adult patients were transferred from Reunion Island to Paris for emergency heart transplantation. Among them, 19 (57.6%) needed mechanical circulatory support in the form of VA-ECMO. Median age was 51 (33-57) years and 46% of the patients had ischaemic heart disease. Patients on VA-ECMO presented higher Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score ( p = 0.03). No death occurred during the medical transfer by long flight, while severe complications occurred in 10 patients (30.3%). Incidence of thromboembolic events, severe infectious complications and major haemorrhages was higher in the group of patients on VA-ECMO than in the group of patients not on VA-ECMO ( p <0.01). Seven patients from the VA-ECMO group (36.8%) and six patients from the non-VA-ECMO group (42.9%, p=0.7) underwent heart transplantation after a median delay of 10 (4-29) days on the emergency waiting list. After heart transplantation, one-year survival rates were 85.7% for patients on VA-ECMO and 83.3% for patients not on VA-ECMO ( p=0.91).

CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests the feasibility of very long-distance medical evacuation of cardiogenic shock patients on VA-ECMO for emergency heart transplantation, with acceptable long-term results.

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