Multi-Modal Characterization of the Coagulopathy Associated With Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation

Crit Care Med. 2020 May;48(5):e400-e408. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000004286.

Abstract

Objectives: Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation is used to stabilize severe cardiocirculatory and/or respiratory failure. However, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation is associated with a coagulopathy characterized by thromboembolic and hemorrhagic complications. This study aimed to characterize the pathomechanism of the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation-associated coagulopathy and identify options to optimize its monitoring and therapy.

Design: Prospective observational clinical trial.

Setting: ICU of a university hospital.

Patients: Patients treated with venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (n = 10) due to acute respiratory distress syndrome and patients treated with venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (n = 8) due to cardiocirculatory failure. One patient per group (venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) had surgery before extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

Interventions: Blood was sampled before, and 1, 24, and 48 hours after extracorporeal membrane oxygenation implantation. Point-of-care tests (thrombelastometry/platelet aggregometry), conventional coagulation tests, whole blood counts, and platelet flow cytometry were performed.

Measurements and main results: Even before extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, plasmatic coagulation and platelet aggregation were impaired due to systemic inflammation, liver failure, anticoagulants (heparins, phenprocoumon, apixaban), and antiplatelet medication. During extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, hemodilution and contact of blood components with artificial surfaces and shear stress inside extracorporeal membrane oxygenation additionally contributed to coagulation and platelet defects. Fibrinogen levels, fibrin polymerization, platelet activation, and microparticle release were increased in venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation compared to venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation patients. Point-of-care results were available faster than conventional analyses. Bleeding requiring blood product application occurred in three of 10 venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation patients and in four of eight venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation patients. No thrombotic events were observed. In-hospital mortality was 30% for venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and 37.5% for venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation patients.

Conclusions: The extracorporeal membrane oxygenation-associated coagulopathy is a multifactorial and quickly developing syndrome. It is characterized by individual changes of coagulation parameters and platelets and is aggravated by anticoagulants. The underlying factors of the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation-associated coagulopathy differ between venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation patients and are best diagnosed by a combination of point-of-care and conventional coagulation and platelet analyses. Therapy protocols for treating extracorporeal membrane oxygenation-associated coagulopathy should be further validated in large-scale prospective clinical investigations.