Impact of Prone Position in COVID-19 Patients on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation

Crit Care Med. 2023 Jan 1;51(1):36-46. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000005714. Epub 2022 Nov 11.


Objectives: Prone positioning and venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) are both useful interventions in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Combining the two therapies is feasible and safe, but the effectiveness is not known. Our objective was to evaluate the potential survival benefit of prone positioning in venovenous ECMO patients cannulated for COVID-19-related ARDS.

Design: Retrospective analysis of a multicenter cohort.

Patients: Patients on venovenous ECMO who tested positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction or with a diagnosis on chest CT were eligible.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: All patients on venovenous ECMO for respiratory failure in whom prone position status while on ECMO and in-hospital mortality were known were included. Of 647 patients in 41 centers, 517 were included. Median age was 55 (47-61), 78% were male and 95% were proned before cannulation. After cannulation, 364 patients (70%) were proned and 153 (30%) remained in the supine position for the whole ECMO run. There were 194 (53%) and 92 (60%) deaths in the prone and the supine groups, respectively. Prone position on ECMO was independently associated with lower in-hospital mortality (odds ratio = 0.49 [0.29-0.84]; p = 0.010). In 153 propensity score-matched pairs, mortality rate was 49.7% in the prone position group versus 60.1% in the supine position group (p = 0.085). Considering only patients alive at decannulation, propensity-matched proned patients had a significantly lower mortality rate (22.4% vs 37.8%; p = 0.029) than nonproned patients.

Conclusions: Prone position may be beneficial in patients supported by venovenous ECMO for COVID-19-related ARDS but more data are needed to draw definitive conclusions.

Trial registration: NCT04397588.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prone Position
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome* / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies

Associated data