Safety of long-distance transfers of patients on acute mechanical circulatory support

J Surg Res. 2018 Apr:224:18-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2017.11.037. Epub 2017 Dec 22.


Background: Acute mechanical circulatory support (aMCS) can be a lifesaving therapy for patients with refractory cardiogenic shock. As device safety and technology improve, so will the ability to extend aMCS to patients at remote hospitals. The Intermountain West is unique because of the large geographical area, making transport of critically ill patients a logistical challenge.

Methods: We reviewed our experience of transporting patients in cardiogenic shock over long distances who had already been placed on aMCS: Impella and extracorporeal membrane oxygenator devices. Survival data was compared to international benchmark data published by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization.

Results: A total of 11 patients (91% male; mean age 56 ± 5.4 y) were transported via fixed-wing aircraft to our center. The etiology of cardiogenic shock was ST-elevation myocardial infarction (n = 4), acutely decompensated chronic systolic heart failure (n = 4), postcardiotomy shock (n = 2), and acute myocarditis (n = 1). Average transport distance was 364 ± 139 miles (585 ± 264 km) and flight time was 170 ± 29 min. All patients were safely transported with no in-transit adverse events. The average duration of aMCS was 6.4 ± 3.3 d. Six patients (54.5%) survived to device explantation and 3 (27.2%) survived to hospital discharge. For comparison, Extracorporeal Life Support Organization benchmark data for adult cardiogenic shock patients report 56% survival to device explantation and 41% to hospital discharge.

Conclusions: Patient transport with aMCS over long distances can be done safely without serious adverse events using good protocols and well-trained personnel. Although survival data are slightly below benchmark data, they appear reasonable, given the severity of illness and challenges of transferring critically ill patients to an expert center.

Keywords: Cardiogenic shock; Extracorporeal membrane oxygenator; Impella device; Interhospital transportation; Mechanical circulatory support device.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Critical Illness
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Safety
  • Patient Transfer*
  • Shock, Cardiogenic / therapy*