Impairment of Venous Drainage on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Secondary to Air Trapping in Acute Asphyxial Asthma

J Extra Corpor Technol. 2015 Jun;47(2):109-12.


The inability to adequately support a patient on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) due to impaired drainage is not an uncommon occurrence during support. Typically, the causes include hypovolemia, kinks in the circuit, cannula malposition, or inadequate cannula size. In this report we present an uncommon etiology of this problem. A 3-year-old female presented to our hospital in status asthmaticus and pulseless electrical activity (PEA). This was a result of dynamic hyperinflation of the lungs causing physical obstruction of venous return to the heart. Upon initiating venoarterial (VA) ECMO, we experienced inadequate drainage that did not improve despite multiple interventions. This resolved with the addition of an inhaled anesthetic gas to treat this patient's severe bronchospasm. This case illustrates the importance of considering a patient's physiology or disease state and how that may affect the mechanics of ECMO support.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Anesthetics, Inhalation / therapeutic use*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drainage / adverse effects*
  • Drainage / methods
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Status Asthmaticus / physiopathology*
  • Status Asthmaticus / therapy*


  • Anesthetics, Inhalation