Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is used for critically ill patients when conventional treatments for cardiac or respiratory failure are unsuccessful.


To describe patient and treatment characteristics and discharge outcome for ECMO patients, determine which characteristics are associated with good (survival) versus poor (death before hospital discharge) outcomes, and compare characteristics of patients with cardiac versus respiratory failure indicating ECMO.


Single-center, retrospective review of all adult patients treated with ECMO from 2005 through 2009.


A total of 212 patients received ECMO for cardiac (n = 126) or respiratory (n = 86) failure. Mean age was 51 (SD, 14.5) years; support duration was 135 (SD, 149) hours. Survival to discharge was 33% overall; 50% for respiratory indication and 21% for cardiac indication patients. Patients with poor outcomes were older (53 vs 47 years, P = .007), more likely to require cardiovascular support before ECMO (99% vs 91%; P = .02), and had more transfusions (48 vs 24 units, P = .005) and complications (99% vs 87%; P < .001) than did patients with good outcomes. For cardiac patients, older age was associated with poor outcome (poor, 55 vs good, 48 years; P = .01). For respiratory patients, poor outcome was associated with more ventilator days before ECMO (poor, 6 vs good, 3; P = .01), higher peak inspiratory pressure (poor, 39 vs good, 35 cm H2O; P = .02), and lower pulmonary compliance (poor, 19 vs good, 25 mL/cm H2O; P = .008).


Patients with respiratory indications for ECMO experienced better survival than did cardiac patients. Increasing age was associated with poor outcome. Complications, regardless of ECMO indication, were common and associated with poor outcome.

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