Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for refractory septic shock in adults

Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2015 Feb;47(2):e68-74. doi: 10.1093/ejcts/ezu462. Epub 2014 Nov 25.


Objectives: The role of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) remains controversial in adult patients with refractory septic shock. We sought to describe the clinical outcomes of adult patients supported by ECMO during septic shock refractory to conventional treatment.

Methods: We analysed consecutive adult patients with refractory septic shock, assisted by an ECMO system between January 2005 and December 2013 in a single-centre registry. The primary outcome was survival to hospital discharge.

Results: A total of 32 patients (21 males) received ECMO support for refractory septic shock. Of these, 14 patients (43.8%) had undergone cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and 7 patients (21.9%) did not achieve the return of spontaneous circulation until initiation of ECMO flow. ECMO was weaned off successfully in 13 patients (40.6%) and 7 patients (21.9%) survived to hospital discharge. The survivors had lower peak lactate (4.5 vs 15.1 mmol/l, P = 0.03), lower Sepsis-related Organ Failure Assessment day 3 score (15 vs 18, P = 0.01) and higher peak troponin I (32.8 vs 3.7 ng/ml, P = 0.02) than the non-survivors. None of the patients (31.3%) in whom ECMO was initiated more than 30.5 h after onset of septic shock, survived. In multivariable-adjusted models, CPR [adjusted hazard ratio (HR), 4.61; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.55-13.69; P = 0.006] was an independent predictor of in-hospital mortality after ECMO in patients with refractory septic shock. Higher peak troponin I > 15 ng/ml (adjusted HR, 0.34; 95% CI, 0.12-0.97; P = 0.04) was associated with a lower risk of in-hospital mortality.

Conclusions: Survival to hospital discharge remained low in adult patients with refractory septic shock despite ECMO support. Our findings suggest that implantation of ECMO during refractory septic shock could be considered in patients with severe myocardial injury but should be avoided in patients who have received CPR.

Keywords: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation; Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation; Myocardial injury; Septic shock.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Shock, Septic / epidemiology
  • Shock, Septic / mortality*
  • Shock, Septic / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome