Palliative Care for Extracorporeal Life Support: Insights From the National Inpatient Sample

Am Surg. 2021 Dec;87(10):1621-1626. doi: 10.1177/00031348211024232. Epub 2021 Jun 14.


Background: Providing temporary cardiopulmonary support, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) carries a high risk of mortality. Palliative care (PC) may facilitate a patient-centered approach to end-of-life care in order to aid symptom management and provide psychosocial support to families. The present study aimed to identify factors associated with PC consultation and its impact on resource utilization in ECMO.

Study design: All adults placed on ECMO at a PC capable center were identified in the 2006-2017 National Inpatient Sample. Indications for ECMO were identified using diagnosis codes and classified into postcardiotomy syndrome, respiratory failure, cardiogenic shock, mixed cardiopulmonary failure, and transplant related.

Results: Of 41 122 patients undergoing ECMO, 20 514 (49.9%) died in the same hospitalization. Of those, 3951 (19.3%) received a PC consult. Use of PC consults increased significantly from 5.5% in 2006 to 22.8% in 2017 (nptrend<.001). After multivariable risk adjustment, PC consults did not affect costs (β: -$7341, 95% CI: -22 572 to +7888) or duration of hospitalizations (β: -.37 days, 95% CI: -2.76 to +2.02).

Conclusion: Utilization of PC does not appear to negatively influence resource utilization among non-survivors of ECMO. Increased adaptation of PC in ECMO may improve end-of-life care, a factor that deserves future study.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Databases, Factual
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation*
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Inpatients*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care / methods*