Extracorporeal life support in patients with severe trauma: an advanced treatment strategy for refractory clinical settings

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2013 Jun;145(6):1617-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2012.08.046. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


Objectives: Major trauma is a leading cause of death, particularly among young patients. New strategies in management are needed to improve poor outcomes in cases of severe trauma. Extracorporeal life support (ECLS) has proven to be effective in acute cardiopulmonary failure of different causes, even when conventional therapies fail. We report our initial experience with ECLS as a rescue therapy in severely polytraumatized patients in a refractory clinical setting. This study identifies the pre-ECLS characteristics of patients to predict the appropriateness of ECLS treatment.

Methods: From December 2008 to May 2012, 375 patients with polytrauma were treated in the Careggi Teaching Hospital, a tertiary-level referral trauma center. Our ECLS team was alerted on 30 patients and applied ECLS in 18 adult patients with trauma. We adopted venoarterial ECLS in 14 patients with cardiopulmonary failure with refractory shock and venovenous ECLS in 4 patients with isolated refractory acute respiratory failure.

Results: ECLS was initiated at a mean of 359.176 ± 216.606 (145-950) minutes from trauma. In 4 patients, the ECLS treatment failed because of an incapability to maintain adequate ECLS flow and perfusion. In 14 patients, efficiently supported by ECLS, the cardiac index, mean arterial pressure, blood lactate concentration, arterial oxygen tension, arterial carbon dioxide tension, and pH showed significant improvement, with normal values reached at 3.5 ± 1.5 hours.

Conclusions: From our data, ECLS seems to be a valuable option to resuscitate patients with severe trauma when conventional therapies are insufficient. ECLS is safe, feasible, and effective in providing hemodynamic support and blood gas exchange.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Extracorporeal Circulation*
  • Female
  • Fluid Therapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Life Support Care / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Trauma / therapy*
  • ROC Curve
  • Trauma Centers
  • Treatment Outcome