Document Type


Publication Date



Introduction: Despite advances in management of patients with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), mortality due to ARDS still remains high. In patients with refractory gas-exchange abnormalities, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is considered as salvage therapy that aims to decrease ventilator induced lung injury and provide lung rest. injury and provide lung rest.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective study of patients diagnosed with ARDS from October 2010 to September 2012. The aim of the study was to describe the population of patients placed on ECMO for ARDS in our institution. All patients placed on ARDSnet protocol were identified in the electronic patient record. Demographic, laboratory and ventilator data was extracted. Specifically mode of ventilation, use of rescue modalities (which included inhaled epoprostenol, skeletal muscle paralytics and/or use of airway pressure release ventilation (APRV)), Murray score, Oxygenation Index (OI), Alveolar-arterial gradient (A-a) and PaO2/FiO2 ratio (P/F) were tabulated. Survival to hospital discharge was recorded.

Results: We identified a total of 149 patients. Of these 87 were managed per ARDSnet protocol, 48 received rescue modalities, and 14 patients were placed on ECMO in addition to rescue therapy after a mean interval of 72 hours. Six of 14 patients were placed on veno-arterial ECMO and the rest on veno-venous ECMO.

Table 1 shows the baseline characteristics of these patients.

Table 2 depicts the etiology of ARDS among our patient population.

Mortality was higher in the ARDS group treated with rescue modalities (other than ECMO) compared to the group placed on ECMO as additional rescue therapy (77% vs. 50%; p = 0.3243). The ECMO group had a survival advantage despite higher A-a gradient, PaO2/Fio2 ratio, Oxygenation Index and Murray Score in the ECMO group (Table 1).

Conclusion: Patients with ARDS placed on ECMO had an absolute reduction in mortality of 27% when compared to other rescue modalities. However this did not reach statistical significance due to the small sample size. We believe that ECMO is an important rescue modality in the right clinical setting. Treating physicians should consider ECMO as a treatment modality for severe ARDS patients.

Included in

Surgery Commons