Key Characteristics Impacting Survival of COVID-19 Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation.

Crit Care. 2022 Jun 28;26(1):190


Severe COVID-19 induced acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) often requires extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Recent German health insurance data revealed low ICU survival rates. Patient characteristics and experience of the ECMO center may determine intensive care unit (ICU) survival. The current study aimed to identify factors affecting ICU survival of COVID-19 ECMO patients.


673 COVID-19 ARDS ECMO patients treated in 26 centers between January 1st 2020 and March 22nd 2021 were included. Data on clinical characteristics, adjunct therapies, complications, and outcome were documented. Block wise logistic regression analysis was applied to identify variables associated with ICU-survival.


Most patients were between 50 and 70 years of age. PaO2/FiO2 ratio prior to ECMO was 72 mmHg (IQR: 58–99). ICU survival was 31.4%. Survival was significantly lower during the 2nd wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. A subgroup of 284 (42%) patients fulfilling modified EOLIA criteria had a higher survival (38%) (p = 0.0014, OR 0.64 (CI 0.41–0.99)). Survival differed between low, intermediate, and high-volume centers with 20%, 30%, and 38%, respectively (p = 0.0024). Treatment in high volume centers resulted in an odds ratio of 0.55 (CI 0.28–1.02) compared to low volume centers. Additional factors associated with survival were younger age, shorter time between intubation and ECMO initiation, BMI > 35 (compared to < 25), absence of renal replacement therapy or major bleeding/thromboembolic events.


Structural and patient-related factors, including age, comorbidities and ECMO case volume, determined the survival of COVID-19 ECMO. These factors combined with a more liberal ECMO indication during the 2nd wave may explain the reasonably overall low survival rate. Careful selection of patients and treatment in high volume ECMO centers was associated with higher odds of ICU survival.