Background: Venovenous extracorporeal life support (VV ECLS) has been reported in adult trauma patients with severe respiratory failure; however, ECLS is not available in many trauma centers, few trauma surgeons have experience initiating ECLS and managing ECLS patients, and there is currently little evidence supporting its use in severely injured patients. This study seeks to determine if VV ECLS improves survival in such patients.
Methods: Data from two American College of Surgeons-verified Level 1 trauma centers, which maintain detailed records of patients with acute hypoxemic respiratory failure (AHRF), were evaluated retrospectively. The study population included trauma patients between 16 years and 55 years of age treated for AHRF between January 2001 and December 2009. These patients were divided into two cohorts as follows: patients who received VV ECLS after an incomplete or no response to other rescue therapies (ECLS) versus patients who were managed with mechanical ventilation (CONV). The primary outcome was survival to discharge, and secondary outcomes were intensive care unit and hospital length of stay (LOS), total ventilator days, and rate of complications requiring intervention.
Results: Twenty-six ECLS patients and 76 CONV patients were compared. Adjusted survival was greater in the ECLS group (adjusted odds ratio, 0.193; 95% confidence interval, 0.042-0.884; p = 0.034). Ventilator days, intensive care unit LOS, and hospital LOS did not differ between the groups. ECLS patients received more blood transfusions and had more bleeding complications, while the CONV patients had more pulmonary complications. A cohort of 17 ECLS and 17 CONV patients matched for age and lung injury severity also demonstrated a significantly greater survival in the ECLS group (adjusted odds ratio, 0.038; 95% confidence interval, 0.004-0.407; p = 0.007).
Conclusion: VV ECLS is independently associated with survival in adult trauma patients with AHRF. ECLS should be considered in trauma patients with AHRF when conventional therapies prove ineffective; if ECLS is not readily available, transfer to an ECLS center should be pursued.
Level of evidence: Therapeutic study, level III.