Pre-Intubation Veno-Venous Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation in Patients at Risk for Respiratory Decompensation

Azad S. Karim, Andre Y. Son, Rachel Suen, James M. Walter, Mark Saine, Samuel S. Kim, David D. Odell, Sanket Thakkar, Chitaru Kurihara, Ankit Bharat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VV-ECMO) has emerged as a potential life-saving treatment for patients with acute respiratory failure. Given the accumulating literature supporting the use of VV-ECMO without therapeutic levels of anticoagulation, it might be feasible to use it for planned intubation before surgical procedures. Here, we report consecutive series of patients who underwent planned initiation of VV-ECMO, without anticoagulation, before induction of general anesthesia for anticipated difficult airways or respiratory decompensation. We describe the approach to safely initiate VV-ECMO in an awake patient. We retrospectively identified patients in a prospectively maintained database who underwent planned initiation of VV-ECMO before intubation. Standard statistical methods were used to determine post-procedure outcomes. Patients included were three men and one woman, with a mean age of 34.3 ± 10.4 years. Indications included mediastinal lymphoma, foreign body obstruction, hemoptysis, and tracheo-esophageal fistula. VV-ECMO was initiated electively for all patients, and no anticoagulation was used. The median duration of VV-ECMO support was 2.5 days (1-11 days), the median length of ventilator dependence and intensive care unit stay was 1 day (1-23 days) and 5 days (4-31 days), respectively. The median length of stay was 18.5 days (8-39 days). There were no thrombotic complications and no mortality at 30 days. Initiation of awake VV-ECMO is feasible and is safe before intubation and induction of anesthesia in patients at high risk for respiratory decompensation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-57
Number of pages6
JournalThe journal of extra-corporeal technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • airway
  • anesthesia induction
  • artificial lung
  • extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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