Background: Over the last decade, technical improvements in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) equipment have reduced procedure-related complications and have made ECMO an effective option for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) if conventional therapy fails.
Methods: In this report, we present our early experience with the Cardiohelp, a new portable miniaturized ECMO system, in 22 consecutive patients with ARDS. All patients were placed on venovenous ECMO. Cannulas were inserted percutaneously, employing the Seldinger technique. Data were collected prospectively.
Results: The median patient age was 47 years (36 to 61). Fifteen patients from regional hospitals were too unstable for conventional transport and were placed on Cardiohelp at the referring hospital and then transported to our institution. The patients were transported by ambulance (n=2) or helicopter (n=13) over a distance of 50-250 km. Cardiohelp support resulted in immediate improvement of gas exchange and highly protective ventilation. The median duration of support was 13 days (8 to 19). An exchange of the device was necessary in 9 patients. Sixteen patients (72.7%) were successfully weaned from ECMO and fifteen patients (68.2%) survived. Device-related complications were not observed.
Conclusions: The compact portable ECMO device Cardiohelp is a highly effective method to secure vital gas exchange and to reduce further ventilator-induced lung injury in patients with acute respiratory failure. Crucial technical innovations and ease of device transport and implantation allow location-independent stabilization with consecutive inter-hospital transfer.