Extracorporeal Life Support in COVID-19-related Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome – a EuroELSO international survey

Link to article at PubMed

Artif Organs. 2021 Feb 16. doi: 10.1111/aor.13940. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Extracorporeal life support (ECLS) is a means to support patients with acute respiratory failure. Initially, recommendations to treat severe cases of pandemic Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) with ECLS have been restrained. In the meantime, ECLS has been shown to produce similar outcomes in patients with severe COVID-19 compared to existing data on ARDS mortality.

OBJECTIVE: We performed an international email survey to assess how ECLS providers worldwide have previously used ECLS during the treatment of critically ill patients with COVID-19.

METHODS: A questionnaire with 45 questions (covering e.g. indication, technical aspects, benefit and reasons for treatment discontinuation), mostly multiple-choice, was distributed by email to ECLS centers. The survey was approved by the European branch of the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO).

RESULTS: 276 ECMO professionals from 98 centers in 30 different countries on four continents reported that they employed ECMO for very severe COVID-19 cases, mostly in veno-venous configuration (87%). The most common reason to establish ECLS was isolated hypoxemic respiratory failure (50%), followed by a combination of hypoxemia and hypercapnia (39%). Only a small fraction of patients required veno-arterial cannulation due to heart failure (3%). Time on ECLS varied between less than two and more than four weeks. The main reason to discontinue ECLS treatment prior to patient's recovery was lack of clinical improvement (53%), followed by major bleeding, mostly intracranially (13%). Only 4% of respondents reported that triage situations, lack of staff or lack of oxygenators were responsible for discontinuation of ECLS support. Most ECLS physicians (51%, IQR 30%) agreed that patients with COVID-19 induced ARDS (CARDS) benefitted from ECLS. Overall mortality of COVID-19 patients on ECLS was estimated to be about 55%.

CONCLUSION: ECLS has been utilized successfully during the COVID-19 pandemic to stabilize CARDS patients in hypoxemic or hypercapnic lung failure. Age and multimorbidity limited the use of ECLS. Triage situations were rarely a concern. ECLS providers stated that patients with severe COVID-19 benefitted from ECLS.

PMID:33590542 | DOI:10.1111/aor.13940

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