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A case series evaluating the effect of esmolol therapy to treat hypoxemia in COVID-19 patients on VV-ECMO.

When COVID-19 ARDS abolishes pulmonary function, VV-ECMO can provide gas exchange. If oxygenation remains insufficient despite maximal VV-ECMO support, the addition of esmolol has been proposed. Conflict exists, however, as to the oxygenation level which should trigger beta-blocker initiation. We evaluated the effect of esmolol therapy on oxygenation and oxygen delivery in patients with negligible native lung function and various degrees of hypoxemia despite maximal VV-ECMO support. We found that, in COVID-19 patients with negligible pulmonary gas exchange, the generalized use of esmolol administration to raise arterial oxygenation by slowing heart rate and thereby match native cardiac output to maximal attainable VV ECMO flows actually reduces systemic oxygen delivery in many cases.

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