Leukocyte Adhesion as an Indicator of Oxygenator Thrombosis During Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Therapy?

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Thrombosis is the most common technical complication with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Accumulations of leukocytes on the gas exchange membranes within a membrane oxygenator (MO) may initiate thrombosis and influence outcome. MOs (n = 41) were removed routinely from adult patients on ECMO, preserved, and analyzed for their cellular deposits using nuclear (4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole) and cell type–specific markers (CD45; von Willebrand factor, vWF). The extent of cellular colonization was correlated with patient data. Blood contact caused adhesion of leukocytes and accumulation of vWF. Six MOs contained “pseudomembranes” (PM). MOs with PM were from younger patients (median [interquartile range {IQR}]; age, 36 [30–47] vs. 61 [51–71] years; p = 0.040) and the leukocyte count before ECMO was on average higher (21 [16–24] vs. 15 [8–18] ×109 per L; p = 0.051) compared with PM-free MOs. The development of PMs did not influence pressure drop across the MO. Data indicating coagulation disorder within the MOs (d-dimers, fibrinogen, and platelets) were not significantly different between the groups. There was only one acute MO thrombosis in a PM-free MO. The support time of the analyzed MOs with PM tended to be longer when compared with PM-free MOs (11 [6–19] vs. 8 [5–11] days). Nevertheless, all patients with MOs with PMs were successfully weaned (6/6 vs. 17/35) and discharged from hospital (6/6 vs. 17/35; p = 0.027) compared with patients with PM-free MOs. In conclusion, elderly people on ECMO showed reduced PM formation that may reduce the risk of MO thrombosis. Younger patients had no negative effect.

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