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Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2013 Feb;26(1):47-52. doi: 10.1097/ACO.0b013e32835bf1be.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation as an alternative to ventilation.

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  • 1Department of Cardiothoracic Anaesthesia, University Hospital of South Manchester, Manchester, UK.



Following the recent H1N1 epidemic, there has been renewed interest in using extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) as a treatment for acute respiratory failure. Currently, following the advances in technology, ECMO is now recommended as a definitive treatment for acute respiratory failure. However, there have been limited randomized trials and cohort studies evaluating this therapy.


Currently, results imply that ECMO is superior to conventional ventilation providing lung rest. There is expansion in the indications for ECMO including a bridge to lung transplantation, the use of ECMO in awake patients, liver transplantation, as well as in adult respiratory distress syndrome. This article looks at the current indications and uses.


Further studies are warranted to define and validate the role of ECMO, including studying the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of patients receiving support. The use of sedatives and antibiotics may be required to be changed significantly. If the incidence of intracerebral haemorrhage can be decreased, then in the author's opinion it may become the first-line treatment for acute respiratory failure.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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