Oxygen Thresholds and Mortality During Extracorporeal Life Support in Adult Patients*

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Extracorporeal life support can lead to rapid reversal of hypoxemia and shock; however, it can also result in varying degrees of hyperoxia. Recent data have suggested an association between hyperoxia and mortality; however, this conclusion has not been consistent across the literature. We evaluated the association between oxygenation thresholds and mortality in three cohorts of extracorporeal life support patients.


We performed a retrospective cohort study using the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization Registry.


We evaluated the relationship between oxygenation measured 24 hours after extracorporeal membrane oxygenation onset and mortality (2010–2015).


The extracorporeal life support cohorts were as follows: 1) veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for respiratory failure, 2) veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for cardiogenic shock, and 3) extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation.


The relationships between hypoxemia (PaO2 < 60mm Hg), normoxia (PaO2 60–100mm Hg), moderate hyperoxia (PaO2 101–300mm Hg), extreme hyperoxia (PaO2 > 300 mm Hg), and mortality were evaluated across three extracorporeal life support cohorts.

Measurements and Main Results:

Seven hundred sixty-five patients underwent veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, 775 patients underwent veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and 412 underwent extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation. During veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, hypoxemia (odds ratio, 1.68; 95% CI, 1.09–2.57) and moderate hyperoxia (odds ratio, 1.66; 95% CI, 1.11–2.50) were associated with increased mortality compared with normoxia. There was no association between oxygenation and mortality for veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Moderate hyperoxia was associated with increased mortality during extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation compared with normoxia (odds ratio, 1.77; 95% CI, 1.03–3.30). An exploratory analysis did not find more specific PaO2 thresholds associated with mortality within moderate hyperoxia.


Moderate hyperoxia was associated with increased mortality in patients undergoing veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for respiratory failure and extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Hypoxemia was associated with an increased mortality in veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. No association was seen between oxygenation and mortality in veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation which may be due to early death driven by the underlying disease.

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