Background: Extracorporeal life support (ECLS) as a bridge to lung transplantation (LuTx) is a promising option for patients with end-stage lung disease on the transplant waiting list. We investigated the outcome of patients bridged to lung transplantation on ECLS technologies, mainly extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
Methods: Between January 2007 and October 2013, ECLS was implanted in 30 patients with intention to bridge to LuTx. Twenty-six patients (26/30) were successfully bridged to LuTx on ECLS. The most common diagnosis was cystic fibrosis (N = 12). Venovenous ECMO was used in 10, venoarterial in 4, interventional lung assist in 5, and stepwise combination of them in 7 recipients.
Results: Two patients weaned from ECMO, and 2 patients died on ECMO on the waiting list. Median duration of ECLS was 21 days (1-81 years). Six patients were awake and spontaneously breathing during ECLS support. Thirty-day, 1-year, and 2-year survivals were 89%, 68%, and 53%, respectively, for bridged patients and 96%, 85%, and 79%, respectively, for control group (P = 0.001). Three months conditional survivals were 89% and 69% at 1 and 2 years for ECLS group, compared to 92% and 86% for control group (P = 0.03). Cystic fibrosis recipients had 82% survival rate at 1 and 2 years. All recipients bridged to LuTx on awake ECLS (N = 6) are alive with a median follow-up of 10.8 months (range, 6-21 months).
Conclusions: Our data show significantly lower survival in this high-risk group compared to patients transplanted without preoperative ECLS. Awake and ambulatory ECLS provides the best prognosis for these high-risk patients.