The use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) as a bridge to lung transplant (LTX) is still being debated.
We performed a retrospective two-center analysis of the relationship between ECMO bridging duration and survival in 25 patients. Further survival analysis was obtained by dividing the patients according to waiting time on ECMO: up to 14 days (Early group) or longer (Late group). We also analyzed the impact of the ventilation strategy during ECMO bridging (ie, spontaneous breathing and noninvasive ventilation [NIV] or intubation and invasive mechanical ventilation [IMV]).
Seventeen of 25 patients underwent a transplant (with a 76% 1-year survival), whereas eight patients died during bridging. In the 17 patients who underwent a transplant, mortality was positively related to waiting days until LTX (hazard ratio [HR], 1.12 per day; 95% CI, 1.02-1.23; P = .02), and the Early group showed better Kaplan-Meier curves (P = .02), higher 1-year survival rates (100% vs 50%, P = .03), and lower morbidity (days on IMV and length of stay in ICU and hospital). During the bridge to transplant, mortality increased steadily with time. Considering the overall outcome of the bridging program (25 patients), bridge duration adversely affected survival (HR, 1.06 per day; 95% CI, 1.01-1.11; P = .015) and 1-year survival (Early, 82% vs Late, 29%; P = .015). Morbidity indexes were lower in patients treated with NIV during the bridge.
The duration of the ECMO bridge is a relevant cofactor in the mortality and morbidity of critically ill patients awaiting organ allocation. The NIV strategy was associated with a less complicated clinical course after LTX.