Mechanical ventilation during extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. An international survey

Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2014 Jul;11(6):956-61. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201403-100BC.


Rationale: In patients with severe, acute respiratory failure undergoing venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VV-ECMO), the optimal strategy for mechanical ventilation is unclear.

Objectives: Our objective was to describe ventilation practices used in centers registered with the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO).

Methods: We conducted an international cross-sectional survey of medical directors and ECMO program coordinators from all ELSO-registered centers. The survey was distributed using a commercial website that collected information on center characteristics, the presence of a mechanical ventilator protocol, ventilator settings, and weaning practices. E-mails were sent out to medical directors or coordinators at each ELSO center and their responses were pooled for analysis.

Measurements and main results: We analyzed 141 (50%) individual responses from the 283 centers contacted across 28 countries. Only 27% of centers reported having an explicit mechanical ventilation protocol for ECMO patients. The majority of these centers (77%) reported "lung rest" to be the primary goal of mechanical ventilation, whereas 9% reported "lung recruitment" to be their ventilation strategy. A tidal volume of 6 ml/kg or less was targeted by 76% of respondents, and 58% targeted a positive end-expiratory pressure of 6-10 cm H2O while ventilating patients on VV-ECMO. Centers prioritized weaning VV-ECMO before mechanical ventilation.

Conclusions: Although ventilation practices in patients supported by VV-ECMO vary across ELSO centers internationally, the majority of centers used a strategy that targeted lung-protective thresholds and prioritized weaning VV-ECMO over mechanical ventilation.

Keywords: Extracorporeal Life Support Organization; acute respiratory distress syndrome; extracorporeal membrane oxygenation; international survey; mechanical ventilation.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tidal Volume
  • Treatment Outcome