Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) as lung or heart assist

L Bjertnaes, J Vaage, S M Almdahl, M Lie, P A Nilsen, K Hansen, J Solbø, A Jolin, R Hotvedt, K Olafsen, A Bröndbo, J Thoner, M Gilbert, O Hevrøy, G Bjørsvik, N Hesselberg, H Bergland, O Sivertsen
Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica 1996, 40 (3): 293-301
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) may serve as extracorporeal lung assist (ECLA) in patients with acute respiratory failure (ARF) or as extracorporeal heart assist (ECHA) in patients with low output syndrome (LOS) after open heart surgery. From 1988 to 1992 seven patients underwent ECMO in our hospital; four suffered from ARF and three from LOS. Various bypass techniques were employed. Two ARF patients, aged 58 and 18 years, had veno-venous bypass; in the latter, ECMO was reinstituted as a veno-arterial bypass one week after weaning. In a three-year-old boy, the ECMO outflow tubing was primarily connected to the pulmonary artery, and shortly afterwards relocated to the common carotid artery. In a 31-year-old man with ARF, and three LOS patients, a 56-year-old woman, and two men aged 68 and 70 years, ECMO was veno-arterial with direct access to the ascending aorta. A heparin-coated system was used, and all but one patient, who was treated with warfarin, received a daily low dose of heparin, which was withdrawn after from one to nine days. Six patients were weaned off ECMO after 4.5 to 21 days. Three ARF patients recovered completely; the child died. In one LOS patient, ECMO was withdrawn due to a poor general condition. Two others were weaned off ECMO and the intra-aortic balloon pump, and the inotropic support was significantly reduced, but both died of multiple system organ failure. Although no firm conclusions can be drawn from these few case reports, the heparin-coated system used as ECLA appears promising, whereas ECHA seems to imply a poor prognosis in patients who are not candidates for cardiac transplantation.

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