Electron Microscopy as a Tool for Assessment of Anticoagulation Strategies During Extracorporeal Life Support: The Proof Is on the Membrane

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Abstract

Extracorporeal life support (ECLS) is fast becoming more common place for use in adult patients failing mechanical ventilation. Management of coagulation and thrombosis has long been a major complication in the use of ECLS therapies. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of membrane oxygenators (MOs) after use in ECLS circuits can offer novel insight into any thrombotic material deposition on the MO. In this pilot study, we analyzed five explanted MOs immediately after use in a sheep model of different acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). We describe our methods of MO dissection, sample preparation, image capture, and results. Of the five MOs analyzed, those that received continuous heparin infusion showed very little thrombosis formation or other clot material, whereas those that were used with only initial heparin bolus showed readily apparent thrombotic material.

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