Issues to resolve with the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation during interfacility transportation

Med Intensiva (Engl Ed). 2019 Mar;43(2):90-102. doi: 10.1016/j.medin.2018.01.004. Epub 2018 Mar 2.
[Article in English, Spanish]


Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support is indicated in patients who are refractory to treatment, those with cardiogenic shock or respiratory failure and those with exacerbations eligible for heart and lung transplantation. Physician experience and quantity of necessary resources are reasons why regionalization could benefit patients of this kind, establishing ECMO reference centers and integrating a transportation network specialized in ECMO. This type of transportation is a challenge for healthcare systems and physicians, given its greater complexity, requiring a multidisciplinary and inter-territorial approach. ECMO transportation is safer than without mechanical support, though there are currently no criteria for starting such therapy in patients being transferred. Criteria of lesser severity might be necessary for these patients. The training and specialization of the team in extracorporeal support therapies, interfacility transport and the systemization of transfer can improve the outcomes. There are no studies on the conditions that must be met by the transportation media, although space and stability are important characteristics. Air transfer with ECMO is an increasingly frequent option. Although there are data on its safety, there are none on the physiology of patients undergoing ECMO at high altitudes. Such information could be of help in the indication and management of this type of transportation.

Keywords: ECMO; ELCS; Extracorporeal life support; Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation; Interfacility; Interhospitalario; Membrana de oxigenación extracorpórea; Soporte vital extracorpóreo; Transport; Transporte.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Checklist
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation*
  • Humans
  • Transportation of Patients / organization & administration*
  • Transportation of Patients / standards*