Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) has revolutionized treatment of severe isolated or combined failure of lung and heart. Due to remarkable technical development the frequency of use is growing fast, with increasing adoption by interventional cardiologists independent of cardiac surgery. Nevertheless, ECMO support harbors substantial risk such as bleeding, thromboembolic events and infection. Percutaneous ECMO circuits usually comprise cannulation of two large vessels ('dual' cannulation), either veno-venous for respiratory and veno-arterial for circulatory support. Recently experienced centers apply more advanced strategies by cannulation of three large vessels ('triple' cannulation), resulting in veno-veno-arterial or veno-arterio-venous cannulation. While the former intends to improve drainage and unloading, the latter represents a very potent method to provide circulatory and respiratory support at the same time. As such triple cannulation expands the field of application at the expense of increased complexity of ECMO systems. Here, we review percutaneous dual and triple cannulation strategies for different clinical scenarios of the critically ill. As there is no unifying terminology to date, we propose a nomenclature which uses "A" and all following letters for supplying cannulas and all letters before "A" for draining cannulas. This general and unequivocal code covers both dual and triple ECMO cannulation strategies (VV, VA, VVA, VAV). Notwithstanding the technical evolution, current knowledge of ECMO support is mainly based on observational experience and mostly retrospective studies. Prospective controlled trials are urgently needed to generate evidence on safety and efficacy of ECMO support in different clinical settings.
Keywords: Cardiogenic shock; ECMO; Extracorporeal circulation; Heart failure; Mechanical circulatory support.