Effect of Pulsatility on Microcirculation in Patients Treated with Extracorporeal Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation: A Pilot Study

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The effect of pulsatile blood flow on microcirculation during extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation (ECPR) is not elucidated; therefore, we designed an observational study comparing sublingual microcirculation in patients with refractory cardiac arrest (CA) with spontaneously pulsatile or low/nonpulsatile blood flow after treatment with ECPR. Microcirculation was assessed with Sidestream Dark Field technology in 12 patients with CA who were treated with ECPR and 12 healthy control subjects. Microcirculatory images were analyzed offline in a blinded fashion, and consensual parameters were determined for the vessels ≤20 μm. The patients’ data, including actual hemodynamic parameters, were documented. Pulsatile blood flow was defined by a pulse pressure (PP) ≥ 15 mm Hg. Compared with the healthy volunteers, the patients who were treated with ECPR exhibited a significantly lower proportion of perfused capillaries (PPC); other microcirculatory parameters did not differ. The groups of patients with pulsatile (n = 7) versus low/nonpulsatile (n = 5) blood flow did not differ in regards to the collected data and hemodynamic variables (except for the PP and ejection fraction of the left ventricle) as well as microcirculatory parameters. In conclusion, microcirculation appeared to be effectively supported by ECPR in our group of patients with CA with the exception of the PPC. We found only nonsignificant contribution of spontaneous pulsatility to extracorporeal membrane oxygenation-generated microcirculatory blood flow.

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