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Minerva Anestesiol. 2009 Dec;75(12):741-5.

A case of ARDS associated with influenza A - H1N1 infection treated with extracorporeal respiratory support.

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Department of Perioperative Medicine and Intensive Care, San Gerardo Hospital, Monza, Italy.


After the first outbreak identified in Mexico in late March 2009, influenza A sustained by a modified H1N1 virus ("swine flu") rapidly spread to all continents. This article describes the first Italian case of life-threatening ARDS associated with H1N1 infection, treated with extracorporeal respiratory assistance (venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation [ECMO]). A 24-year-old, previously healthy man was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the local hospital for rapidly progressive respiratory failure with refractory impairment of gas exchange unresponsive to rescue therapies (recruitment manoeuvres, pronation and nitric oxide inhalation). An extracorporeal respiratory assistance (venovenous ECMO) was performed. It allowed a correction of the respiratory acidosis and made possible the transportation of the patient to the ICU (approximately 150 km from the first hospital). A nasal swab tested positive for H1N1 infection and treatment with oseltamivir was started. The chest computed tomography scan showed bilateral massive, patchy consolidation of lung parenchyma; lab tests showed leukopenia, elevated CPK levels and renal failure. The patient required high dosages of norepinephrine for septic shock and continuous renal replacement therapy. The clinical course was complicated by Pseudomonas aeruginosa superinfection, treated with intravenous and aerosolised colistin. ECMO was withheld after 15 days, while recovery of renal and respiratory function was slower. The patient was discharged from the ICU 34 days after admission. In this case, ECMO was life-saving and made the inter-hospital transfer of the patient possible.

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