Objective: Changes in technology and increased reports of successful extracorporeal life support use in patient populations, such as influenza, cardiac arrest, and adults, are leading to expansion of extracorporeal life support. Major limitations to extracorporeal life support expansion remain bleeding and thrombosis. These complications are the most frequent causes of death and morbidity. As a pilot project to provide baseline data for a detailed evaluation of bleeding and thrombosis in the current era, extracorporeal life support patients were analyzed from eight centers in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network.
Study design: Retrospective analysis of patients (< 19 yr) reported to the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization registry from eight Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network centers between 2005 and 2011.
Setting: Tertiary children's hospitals within the Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network.
Subjects: The study cohort consisted of 2,036 patients (13% with congenital diaphragmatic hernia).
Main results: In the cohort of patients without congenital diaphragmatic hernia (n = 1,773), bleeding occurred in 38% of patients, whereas thrombosis was noted in 31%. Bleeding and thrombosis were associated with a decreased survival by 40% (relative risk, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.53-0.66) and 33% (odds ratio, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.60-0.74). Longer duration of extracorporeal life support and use of venoarterial cannulation were also associated with increased risk of bleeding and/or thrombotic complications and lower survival. The most common bleeding events included surgical site bleeding (17%; n = 306), cannulation site bleeding (14%; n = 256), and intracranial hemorrhage (11%; n = 192). Common thrombotic events were clots in the circuit (15%; n = 274) and the oxygenator (12%; n = 212) and hemolysis (plasma-free hemoglobin > 50 mg/dL) (10%; n = 177). Among patients with congenital diaphragmatic hernia, bleeding and thrombosis occurred in, respectively, 45% (n = 118) and 60% (n = 159), Bleeding events were associated with reduced survival (relative risk, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.46-0.86) although thrombotic events were not (relative risk, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.67-1.26).
Conclusions: Bleeding and thrombosis remain common complications in patients undergoing extracorporeal life support. Further research to reduce or eliminate bleeding and thrombosis is indicated to help improve patient outcome.