Insight into ECMO, Mortality and ARDS: A Nationwide Analysis of 45,647 ECMO Runs

Crit Care . 2021


Extracorporeal life support (ECLS) has become an integral part of modern intensive therapy. The choice of support mode depends largely on the indication. Patients with respiratory failure are predominantly treated with a venovenous (VV) approach. We hypothesized that mortality in Germany in ECLS therapy did not differ from previously reported literature.


Inpatient data from Germany from 2007 to 2018 provided by the Federal Statistical Office of Germany were analysed. The international statistical classification of diseases and related health problems codes (ICD) and process keys (OPS) for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) types, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and hospital mortality were used.


In total, 45,647 hospitalized patients treated with ECLS were analysed. In Germany, 231 hospitals provided ECLS therapy, with a median of 4 VV-ECMO and 9 VA-ECMO in 2018. Overall hospital mortality remained higher than predicted in comparison to the values reported in the literature. The number of VV-ECMO cases increased by 236% from 825 in 2007 to 2768 in 2018. ARDS was the main indication for VV-ECMO in only 33% of the patients in the past, but that proportion increased to 60% in 2018. VA-ECMO support is of minor importance in the treatment of ARDS in Germany. The age distribution of patients undergoing ECLS has shifted towards an older population. In 2018, the hospital mortality decreased in VV-ECMO patients and VV-ECMO patients with ARDS to 53.9% (n = 1493) and 54.4% (n = 926), respectively.


ARDS is a severe disease with a high mortality rate despite ECLS therapy. Although endpoints and timing of the evaluations differed from those of the CESAR and EOLIA studies and the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) Registry, the reported mortality in these studies was lower than in the present analysis. Further prospective analyses are necessary to evaluate outcomes in ECMO therapy at the centre volume level.

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