Concomitant Respiratory Failure Can Impair Myocardial Oxygenation in Patients with Acute Cardiogenic Shock Supported by VA-ECMO

J Cardiovasc Transl Res. 2021 Feb 23. Online ahead of print

Venous-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO) treatment for acute cardiogenic shock in patients who also have acute lung injury predisposes development of a serious complication called “north-south syndrome” (NSS) which causes cerebral hypoxia. NSS is poorly characterized and hemodynamic studies have focused on cerebral perfusion ignoring the heart. We hypothesized in NSS the heart would be more likely to receive hypoxemic blood than the brain due to the proximity of the coronary arteries to the aortic annulus. To test this, we conducted a computational fluid dynamics simulation of blood flow in a human supported by VA-ECMO. Simulations quantified the fraction of blood at each aortic branching vessel originating from residual native cardiac output versus VA-ECMO. As residual cardiac function was increased, simulations demonstrated myocardial hypoxia would develop prior to cerebral hypoxia. These results illustrate the conditions where NSS will develop and the relative cardiac function that will lead to organ-specific hypoxia.