Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation: evolving epidemiology and mortality

Intensive Care Med. 2016 May;42(5):889-896. doi: 10.1007/s00134-016-4273-z. Epub 2016 Mar 4.


Purpose: The evolution of the epidemiology and mortality of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) remains unclear. The present study investigates the evolving epidemiology and mortality of various ECMO techniques in Germany over time, used for both severe respiratory and cardiac failure.

Methods: Data on all patients receiving venovenous (vv-ECMO) and venoarterial (va-ECMO) ECMO as well as pumpless extracorporeal lung assist/interventional lung assist (PECLA/ILA) outside the operating room in Germany from 1 January 2007 through 31 December 2014 were obtained from the Federal Statistical Office of Germany and analyzed.

Results: The incidence of vv-ECMO and va-ECMO in the population increased threefold from 1.0:100,000 inhabitants/year in 2007 to a maximum of 3.0:100,000 in 2012, and from 0.1:100,000 in 2007 to 0.7:100,000 in 2012 and to a maximum of 3.5:100,000 in 2014, respectively. The incidence of arteriovenous PECLA/ILA also increased from 0.4:100,000 to a maximum of 0.6:100,000 in 2011, but decreased thereafter to 0.3:100,000 in 2014. The relative proportion of older patients receiving ECMO is steadily increasing. In-hospital mortality decreased over time and reached 58 and 66 % for vv-ECMO and va-ECMO in 2014, respectively. In addition, mortality steadily increased with age and was especially high in the first 48 h of ECMO use.

Conclusions: In a high-income country like Germany, the use of ECMO has been rapidly increasing since 2007 for both respiratory and cardiac support, with a recent plateau in vv-ECMO use. In-hospital mortality decreased with increasing ECMO utilization, but remains high, especially in older patients and in the first 48 h of use.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal; Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation; Indication; Technical development.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation / methods*
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation / mortality*
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Heart Failure / mortality
  • Heart Failure / therapy*
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / mortality
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy*