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Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for Adults With Refractory Septic Shock

Riera, Jordi; Argudo, Eduard; Ruiz-Rodríguez, Juan Carlos; Ferrer, Ricard

doi: 10.1097/MAT.0000000000000905
Review Article

Because of a severe dysregulation of the host response to infection, septic shock may induce a profound imbalance between oxygen consumption and delivery, which in some cases may be refractory to conventional support measures. In this setting, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) may help to restore this ratio. Indeed, in neonates and children, this technique is already established as a valid salvage therapy. In spite of the rapid growth in the use of ECMO in recent years, the evidence of its benefits in adult patients is weak, particularly in cases of refractory septic shock. Nevertheless, several case series have reported good outcomes in selected cases with specific management. Here we explore the links between sepsis and ECMO, starting with the basic biology underlying the two entities. We then review the published literature on the use of extracorporeal support in adult patients with septic shock and finally conclude with a review of the key points of management that can optimize the results after this critical situation.

From the Intensive Care Medicine Department, Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, Barcelona, Spain; and Shock, Organ Dysfunction, and Resuscitation Research Group, Department of Medicine, Vall d’Hebron Research Institute, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Submitted for consideration May 2018; accepted for publication in revised form September 2018.

Disclosure: The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Correspondence: Jordi Riera, Intensive Care Medicine Department, Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, Paseo Vall d’Hebron 119–129, 08035 Barcelona, Spain. Email:

Copyright © 2019 by the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs