Predictors of Neurologic Recovery in Patients Who Undergo Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for Refractory Cardiac Arrest

J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 2020 Feb;34(2):356-362. doi: 10.1053/j.jvca.2019.08.003. Epub 2019 Aug 9.


Objective: Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) as a rescue strategy during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (ECPR) is increasingly being used for nonresponders to conventional cardiopulmonary resuscitation. To identify patients most likely to benefit from ECPR, the authors investigated predictors of hospital discharge with good neurologic function.

Design: Retrospective cohort analysis.

Setting: Single institution academic medical center.

Participants: Patients who underwent ECPR.

Interventions: Venoarterial ECMO initiation for witnessed refractory cardiac arrest from 2009-2019.

Measurements and main results: Baseline characteristics and post-ECMO outcomes were compared between patients who had good versus poor neurologic function at discharge. Good neurologic function was defined as a cerebral performance category 1 to 2, whereas poor neurologic function was defined as a cerebral performance category 3 to 5. Of 54 patients, 13 (24%) were discharged with good neurologic function and 41 (76%) had poor neurologic function (n = 38 in-hospital deaths; n = 3 discharged with severe disability.) Survivors with good neurologic function were younger (41 v 61 y; p = 0.03), more likely to arrest because of pulmonary embolism (46% v 10%; p = 0.01), and more likely to receive concurrent Impella (Abiomed, Danvers, MA) placement while on ECMO (38% v 12%; p = 0.03.) Young age was the most important predictor of good neurologic function (odds ratio 0.92 [0.87-0.97]; p = 0.004), with a threshold for improved survival around 60 years. For all patients, survival to discharge was 30%; however, among survivors with good neurologic function, 5-year survival was 100%.

Conclusions: ECPR is associated with high rates of neurologic morbidity and mortality. However, in select patients, it may be an acceptable option with favorable long-term survival. Additional studies are indicated to further define the appropriate selection criteria for ECPR implementation.

Keywords: cardiopulmonary resuscitation; extracorporeal membrane oxygenation; neurologic function; survival analysis.