Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation in COVID-19 Treatment: a Systematic Literature Review

Braz J Cardiovasc Surg. 2021 Jun 1;36(3):388-396. doi: 10.21470/1678-9741-2020-0397.


Introduction: The present study intends to systematically review the literature on the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Methods: The research was carried out according to the recommendations of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyzes (PRISMA). Studies were selected from PubMed/MEDLINE and LILACS databases between December 2019 and May 17 2020, using the descriptors "ECMO AND COVID-19", "Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation AND COVID-19", "ECLS AND COVID-19", and "Extracorporeal Life Support AND COVID-19". Exclusion criteria were government epidemiological bulletins, comments, literature reviews, and articles without full access to content.

Results: Two hundred and thirty-three scientific productions were found, however only 18 did not met the exclusion criteria and could be included in this study, amouting to a total of 911 patients - 624 (68.5%) men, 261 (28.6%) women, and 26 (2.8%) without sex information. The mean age of the patients was 53.7 years. ECMO was necessary in 274 (30.1%) people (200 [73%] submitted to veno-venous ECMO, nine [3.3%] to veno-arterial ECMO, and seven [2.5%] moved between these two types or needed a more specific ECMO according to the disease prognosis). Five studies did not specify the type of ECMO used, amounting 57 (20.8%) patients. Five patients (1.8%) were discharged, 77 (28.1%) died, 125 (45.6%) remained hospitalized until publication time of their respective studies, and 67 patients (24.4%) had no outcome information.

Conclusion: It is evident that more research, covering larger populations, must be carried out in order to clearly elucidate the role of ECMO in the treatment of COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus Infections; Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation; Patient Discharge.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • SARS-CoV-2