Severe acute refractory respiratory failure is considered a life-threatening situation, with a high mortality of 40 to 60%. When conservative oxygenation methods fail, a lifesaving measure is the introduction of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Venovenous ECMO (VV-ECMO) is a preferred modality of support for patients with refractory acute respiratory failure. Specifically, bicaval VV-ECMO is a well-recognized and validated therapy, where single or double periphery venous access is used for the insertion of two differently sized cannulas in order to achieve adequate blood oxygenation. Compared to venoarterial ECMO, in VV-ECMO, the rate of complications, such as thrombosis, bleeding, infection and ischemic events, is lower. On the other hand, the size and insertion location is an obstacle to patient mobilization. This is a considerable problem for patients where the time interval for lung recovery and the bridge to the transplantation is prolonged. To address this issue, a dual-lumen, single venovenous cannula was introduced. Here, by insertion of one single catheter in one target vessel, in a majority of cases in the right internal jugular vein, satisfactory oxygenation of the patient is achieved. In this form, the instituted VV-ECMO enables patient mobility, better physical rehabilitation and facilitates pulmonary extubation and toilet.
However, relatively early, after the first short-term reports were published, a relatively high complication rate became evident. In the recent literature, the complication rate using actual commercially available double-lumen venovenous cannula ranges between 5 and 30%. These cases were mostly conjoined to the implantation phase or the early postoperative phase and vary between right heart perforation to migration of the cannula.
This review focuses on complications allied to commercially available dual-lumen, single, venovenous cannula implantation, pointing out the critical segments of the implantation process and analyzing the structure of the device.