Extracorporeal life support for adult cardiorespiratory failure

H. Anderson, C. Steimle, M. Shapiro, R. Delius, R. Chapman, R. Hirschl, R. Bartlett*, L. H. Edmunds, E. E. Moore, H. D. Reines

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Background. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation is routinely used for neonatal respiratory failure but is considered unsuccessful in adults based on old studies and old methods. We conducted a new phase 1 trial of modern extracorporeal life support (ECLS) in moribund adults with cardiorespiratory failure. Methods. Criteria for initiation of ECLS were 90% mortality risk despite maximal conventional care, good potential for recovery, age < 60 years, and no contraindication to anticoagulation. Vascular access for ECLS was performed by operative or percutaneous cannulation. Continuous systemic heparinization was used, maintaining whole blood activated clotting time between 160 to 180 seconds. Blood components were transfused as necessary. Lung management included low rate and low pressure ventilation with an inspired oxygen fraction 0.5 or less. Results. Forty patients were treated with ECLS, 30 with primary respiratory failure and 10 with primary cardiac failure. Twenty-two patients recovered lung or heart function, and 18 patients survived and were discharged from the hospital (14 with respiratory failure and four with cardiac failure, overall survival 45%). The major complication of ECLS was bleeding. Conclusions. With modern techniques, ECLS can be lifesaving in adult cardiorespiratory failure when conventional therapy has failed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-173
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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