Increasing Sweep Gas Flow Reduces Respiratory Drive and Dyspnea in Nonintubated Venoarterial Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Patients: A Pilot Study

Anesthesiology. 2024 Jul 1;141(1):87-99. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000004962.

Abstract

Background: Data on assessment and management of dyspnea in patients on venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for cardiogenic shock are lacking. The hypothesis was that increasing sweep gas flow through the venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenator may decrease dyspnea in nonintubated venoarterial ECMO patients exhibiting clinically significant dyspnea, with a parallel reduction in respiratory drive.

Methods: Nonintubated, spontaneously breathing, supine patients on venoarterial ECMO for cardiogenic shock who presented with a dyspnea visual analog scale (VAS) score of greater than or equal to 40/100 mm were included. Sweep gas flow was increased up to +6 l/min by three steps of +2 l/min each. Dyspnea was assessed with the dyspnea-VAS and the Multidimensional Dyspnea Profile. The respiratory drive was assessed by the electromyographic activity of the alae nasi and parasternal muscles.

Results: A total of 21 patients were included in the study. Upon inclusion, median dyspnea-VAS was 50 (interquartile range, 45 to 60) mm, and sweep gas flow was 1.0 l/min (0.5 to 2.0). An increase in sweep gas flow significantly decreased dyspnea-VAS (50 [45 to 60] at baseline vs. 20 [10 to 30] at 6 l/min; P < 0.001). The decrease in dyspnea was greater for the sensory component of dyspnea (-50% [-43 to -75]) than for the affective and emotional components (-17% [-0 to -25] and -12% [-0 to -17]; P < 0.001). An increase in sweep gas flow significantly decreased electromyographic activity of the alae nasi and parasternal muscles (-23% [-36 to -10] and -20 [-41 to -0]; P < 0.001). There was a significant correlation between the sweep gas flow and the dyspnea-VAS (r = -0.91; 95% CI, -0.94 to -0.87), between the respiratory drive and the sensory component of dyspnea (r = 0.29; 95% CI, 0.13 to 0.44) between the respiratory drive and the affective component of dyspnea (r = 0.29; 95% CI, 0.02 to 0.54) and between the sweep gas flow and the alae nasi and parasternal (r = -0.31; 95% CI, -0.44 to -0.22; and r = -0.25; 95% CI, -0.44 to -0.16).

Conclusions: In critically ill patients with venoarterial ECMO, an increase in sweep gas flow through the oxygenation membrane decreases dyspnea, possibly mediated by a decrease in respiratory drive.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Dyspnea* / etiology
  • Dyspnea* / physiopathology
  • Dyspnea* / therapy
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation* / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Shock, Cardiogenic / physiopathology
  • Shock, Cardiogenic / therapy