Venovenous extracorporeal life support after pulmonary endarterectomy: indications, techniques, and outcomes

Ann Thorac Surg. 2006 Dec;82(6):2139-45. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2006.07.020.


Background: Pulmonary endarterectomy is the accepted therapy for thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. A recognized complication of this surgery is the postoperative development of reperfusion edema, a potentially fatal cause of respiratory failure. Because reperfusion edema can be a reversible process, temporizing support measures may be life saving.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed our experience with venovenous extracorporeal life support (V-V ECLS) from July 1990 to February 2006, in 20 adult patients (mean age 50.5 +/- 14.5 years) presenting with potentially reversible respiratory failure after pulmonary endarterectomy. This subset of patients comprised 1.12% of our total pulmonary endarterectomy experience during that time (1,790 cases).

Results: Overall in-hospital survival was 30.0% for patients requiring ECLS support after pulmonary endarterectomy versus 94.2% for patients who underwent pulmonary endarterectomy alone during the same timeframe. V-V ECLS was instituted at a mean of 86.8 hours after surgery. The mean duration of V-V ECLS was 123.4 +/- 71.3 hours. The most common cause of death in ECLS patients after pulmonary endarterectomy was pulmonary hemorrhage. Survival was greater in patients cannulated within 120 hours of surgery (46.2% survival; 6 of 13 patients) compared with those cannulated after 120 hours (0 of 7 patients). Multiple logistic regression identified long duration of mechanical ventilation pre-ECLS and severity of preoperative pulmonary hypertension together as predictors of mortality.

Conclusions: A small subset of patients undergoing pulmonary endarterectomy develop temporary life-threatening respiratory failure secondary to severe reperfusion edema. In those patients with satisfactory hemodynamic outcome, V-V ECLS is a therapeutic option when all other conventional strategies have been exhausted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Endarterectomy / adverse effects*
  • Extracorporeal Circulation / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / etiology
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Artery / surgery*
  • Pulmonary Edema / etiology
  • Pulmonary Edema / therapy*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / complications
  • Pulmonary Embolism / surgery*
  • Reperfusion Injury / etiology
  • Reperfusion Injury / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome