Current studies lack information on characteristics of acute brain injury in patients with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. We sought to characterize the types, timing, and risk factors of acute brain injury in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.
We reviewed the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation patients who had undergone brain autopsy with gross and microscopic examinations from January 2009 to December 2018 from a single tertiary center.
Twenty-five patients (median age 53 yr) had postmortem brain autopsy.
Description and analysis of neuropathologic findings.
Measurement and Main Results:
Of 25, 22 had venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (88%) (nine cardiac arrest; 13 cardiogenic shock) and three had venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation cannulation (12%). The median extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support time was 96 hours (interquartile range, 26–181 hr). The most common acute brain injury was hypoxic-ischemic brain injury (44%), followed by intracranial hemorrhage (24%), and ischemic infarct (16%). Subarachnoid hemorrhage (20%) was the most common type of intracranial hemorrhage, followed by intracerebral hemorrhage (8%), and subdural hemorrhage (4%). Only eight patients (32%) were without acute brain injury after extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The most common involved location for hypoxic-ischemic brain injury was cerebral cortices (82%) and cerebellum (55%). The pattern of ischemic infarct was territorial in cerebral cortices. The risk factors for acute brain injury included hypertension history (11 vs 1; p = 0.01), preextracorporeal membrane oxygenation antiplatelet use (7 vs 0; p = 0.03), and a higher day 1 lactate level (10.0 vs 5.1; p = 0.02). Patients with hypoxic-ischemic brain injury had more hypertension (8 vs 4; p = 0.047), a higher day 1 lactate level (12.6 vs 5.8; p = 0.02), and a lower pH level (7.09 vs 7.24; p = 0.027). Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation duration, cannulation methods, hemoglobin level, coma, renal impairment, and hepatic impairment were not associated with acute brain injury.
In the population who underwent postmortem neuropathologic evaluation, 68% of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation nonsurvivors developed acute brain injury. Hypoxic-ischemic brain injury was the most common type of injury suggesting that patients sustained acute brain injury as a consequence of cardiogenic shock and cardiac arrest. Further research with a systematic neurologic monitoring is necessary to define the timing of acute brain injury in patients with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.