Red Blood Cell Transfusion Requirements for Patients on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation

Perfusion. 2021 Mar 3. Online ahead of print


Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a rescue procedure used for cardiac and pulmonary dysfunction. Patients on ECMO often require blood transfusions to maintain oxygen delivery and recover from bleeding complications. Goals of the current study were to determine transfusion requirements while on ECMO, and incidence and transfusion requirements for bleeding complications.


Packed red blood cell (PRBC) transfusions and bleeding complications were identified by retrospective chart review of patients on ECMO from 2010 to 2018 at our institution. Patients were categorized into those who did not bleed (group A) and those who bled (group B). Incidence, sites of bleed, and transfusion requirement for each bleeding were analyzed.


Among 217 patients including veno-arterial (VA) (n = 148) and veno-venous (VV) (n = 69) ECMO, we identified 62 patients without bleeding complications (group A) and 155 patients with bleeding complications (group B). In group A, transfusion requirement was 0.6 PRBC/day for VA-ECMO (n = 42) and 0.2 PRBC/day for VV-ECMO (n = 20) (p = 0.0015). In group B, number of PRBC given per event per day for bleeding complications during ECMO was mediastinal/thoracic bleed (83 events, 4.7 PRBC/event/day), gastrointestinal bleed (59 events, 4.8 PRBC/event/day), cannulation site bleed (88 events, 3.6 PRBC/event/day), and nasopharyngeal bleed (103 events, 2.8 PRBC/event/day). Thirty-day hospital mortality rate was co-related to transfusion requirement (area under ROC curve: 0.70).


Patients without clinical bleeding still required transfusion, with higher rates observed with VA- than VV-ECMO. Transfusion requirements dramatically increased when patients developed various bleeding complications and had a significant impact on 30-day mortality rate.