ECMO used successfully in a near fatal case of opioid-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome

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Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) was first recognized during the 1960s. It is a distinct type of hypoxemic respiratory failure characterized by acute abnormality of both lungs. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is being increasingly used for patients with severe ARDS refractory to otherwise conventional management. A 29 year old male arrived with Emergency Medical Services (EMS) status post presumed heroin overdose. He was administered Naloxone 2 mg intravenously prior to arrival in the emergency department. The patient arrived in severe respiratory distress with a pulse oximetry level of 50% and was immediately intubated. The patient's pulse oximetry level remained in the seventies despite intubation and aggressive ventilator management. The Intensive Care Unit team in conjunction with cardiothoracic surgery initiated venovenous ECMO therapy in the emergency department itself. The patient was transferred to a tertiary center for venoarterial ECMO that was continued for 6 more days. After an extensive hospitalization, the patient was ultimately transferred to an acute medical rehabilitation center. With the current opioid crisis, emergency physicians and providers need to be aware that opioids can induce severe ARDS refractory to mechanical ventilation. ECMO as a treatment option can be used safely and successfully as described in this unique patient case report.

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