When to discontinue extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for postcardiotomy support

Steven M. Fiser, Curtis G. Tribble, Aditya K. Kaza, Stewart M. Long, Richard K. Zacour, John A. Kern, Irving L. Kron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Background. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) has demonstrated limited success in adult postcardiotomy shock. The goal of this study was to determine when to discontinue ECMO for postcardiotomy support. Methods. During a 7-year period ECMO was used in 51 postcardiotomy patients, of whom 16 (31%) weaned and 8 (16%) survived. Results. Patients in the heart transplant group were more likely to wean compared with patients in the non-heart transplant group (p = 0.03). Patients aged greater than 65 years (p = 0.04) or with ejection fractions of less than 30% after 48 hours of ECMO (p < 0.001) were less likely to wean. Time on ECMO was significantly longer for survivors in the heart transplant group (101.3 ± 7.5 hours) compared with survivors in the non- heart transplant group (28.3 ± 11.9 hours, p < 0.001). Conclusions. After 48 to 72 hours, consideration should be given to discontinuing ECMO, either by moving to an implantable ventricular assist device or by withdrawal of support, except in those patients with heart transplants. In the latter, both severe postoperative pulmonary hypertension and reperfusion injury may take as long as 120 hours to reverse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-214
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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