Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for severe ARDS in pregnant and postpartum women during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic

Intensive Care Med. 2011 Apr;37(4):648-54. doi: 10.1007/s00134-011-2138-z. Epub 2011 Feb 12.


Purpose: To describe the technical challenges, efficacy, complications and maternal and infant outcomes associated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for severe adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in pregnant or postpartum patients during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

Methods: Twelve critically ill pregnant and postpartum women were included in this retrospective observational study on the application of ECMO for the treatment of severe ARDS refractory to standard treatment. The study was conducted at seven tertiary hospitals in Australia and New Zealand.

Results: Of the 12 patients treated with ECMO, 7 (58%) were pregnant and 5 (42%) were postpartum. Their median (interquartile range [IQR]) age was 29 (26-33) years, 6 (50%) were obese. Two patients were initially treated with veno-arterial (VA) ECMO. All others received veno-venous (VV) ECMO with one or two drainage cannulae. ECMO circuit-related complications were rare, circuit change was needed in only two cases and there was no sudden circuit failure. On the other hand, bleeding was common, leading to relatively large volumes of packed red blood cell transfusion (median [IQR] volume transfused was 3,499 [1,451-4,874] ml) and was the main cause of death (three cases). Eight (66%) patients survived to discharge and seven were ambulant, with normal oxygen saturations. The survival rate of infants whose mothers received ECMO was 71% and surviving infants were discharged home with no sequelae.

Conclusions: The use of ECMO for severe ARDS in pregnant and postpartum women was associated with a 66% survival rate. The most common cause of death was bleeding. Infants delivered of mothers who had received ECMO had a 71% survival rate and, like their mothers, had no permanent sequelae at hospital discharge.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • Intensive Care Units
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / blood
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Young Adult