Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation as a bridge to lung transplantation and recovery

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2012 Sep;144(3):716-21. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2012.05.040. Epub 2012 Jul 15.


Objective: Respiratory failure develops in many patients on lung transplant waiting lists before a suitable donor organ becomes available. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation may be used to bridge such patients to recovery or lung transplantation.

Methods: This is a review of a single-institution's experience with placing patients on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation with the intention of bridging them to lung transplantation. End points included successful bridging, duration of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support, extubation, weaning from extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, overall survival, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation-related complications. During an approximate 5-year period, acute respiratory failure developed in 18 patients (median age, 34 years) on the institution's lung transplant waiting list (8 hypoxemic, 9 hypercarbic, and 1 combined) who were placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (13 venovenous and 5 venoarterial).

Results: All patients achieved appropriate extracorporeal membrane oxygenation blood flow rates (median, 4.05 L/min) and good gas exchange (median, on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation partial pressure of arterial carbon dioxide 43 mm Hg and partial pressure of arterial oxygen 196 mm Hg). Thirteen patients (72%) were successfully bridged: 10 to transplant and 3 returned to baseline function. Eleven patients (61%) survived beyond 3 months, including the 10 (56%) who underwent transplantation and are still alive. The median duration of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support for patients who underwent transplantation was 6 days (3.5-31 days) versus 13.5 days (11-19 days) for those who did not undergo transplantation (P = .45). Six patients (33%) were extubated on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, 4 of whom underwent transplantation. Four patients (22%) who were too unstable for conventional interhospital transfer were transported on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation to Columbia University Medical Center. This subgroup had a 75% bridge to transplant or recovery rate and 100% survival in transplanted patients.

Conclusions: Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation is a safe and effective means of bridging well-selected patients with refractory respiratory failure to lung transplantation or return to their baseline condition.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation* / adverse effects
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation* / mortality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Logistic Models
  • Lung Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Lung Transplantation* / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / mortality
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / surgery*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists* / mortality
  • Young Adult