We report on the use of veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) as a bridging strategy to lung transplantation in awake and spontaneously breathing patients. All five patients described in this series presented with cardiopulmonary failure due to pulmonary hypertension with or without concomitant lung disease. ECMO insertion was performed under local anesthesia without sedation and resulted in immediate stabilization of hemodynamics and gas exchange as well as recovery from secondary organ dysfunction. Two patients later required endotracheal intubation because of bleeding complications and both of them eventually died. The other three patients remained awake on ECMO support for 18-35 days until the time of transplantation. These patients were able to breathe spontaneously, to eat and drink, and they received passive and active physiotherapy as well as psychological support. All of them made a full recovery after transplantation, which demonstrates the feasibility of using ECMO support in nonintubated patients with cardiopulmonary failure as a bridging strategy to lung transplantation.
© 2010 The Authors Journal compilation © 2010 The American Society of Transplantation and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.