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J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2010 Dec;140(6):1416-21. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2010.07.083. Epub 2010 Oct 8.

Veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation using Levitronix centrifugal pump as bridge to decision for refractory cardiogenic shock.

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A De Gasperis Cardiology & Cardiac Surgery Department, Niguarda Ca' Granda Hospital, Milan, Italy.



Cardiogenic shock still carries a very high mortality. We adopted veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation using the Levitronix centrifugal pump (Levitronix LLC, Waltham, Massachusetts) as a first-line treatment of cardiogenic shock in a "bridge to decision" strategy. This article provides our experience of this clinical approach.


Since 1988, 160 ventricular assist devices have been implanted at our hospital for heart failure. Since 2005, 15 consecutive patients have been treated with veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for refractory cardiogenic shock. Veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation has been implanted either centrally or peripherally.


Mean age was 44.7 ± 20.0 years (2-78 years). There were 5 women. Veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation was implanted peripherally in 8 cases (53.4%) and centrally in the remaining 7 (46.6%). Mean veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation duration was 11.5 ± 8.1 days (range, 1-30). No patient experienced any neurologic event or vascular complication at the cannulation site. Twelve patients (80%) were weaned from veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or bridged to either a long-term left ventricular assist device or heart transplantation. Three patients died during veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support secondary to multi-organ failure. Seven patients (46.6%) were discharged from the hospital, with a 100% survival at follow-up. The survivors include 2 patients affected by fulminant myocarditis, who were bridged to recovery, and 5 patients who were bridged to heart transplantation. Survivors were younger than nonsurvivors (mean age, 28.5 vs 58.8 years, respectively).


In our experience, the use of veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation as bridge to decision has been effective to promptly restore adequate systemic perfusion, allowing further time to evaluate myocardial recovery or candidacy for ventricular assist device or heart transplantation. Younger patients, with no or mild end-organ injury, had the best outcomes. Peripheral cannulation decreases the surgical trauma and makes emergency implantation possible, even in the intensive care unit.

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