Extracorporeal life support treatments such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) have been recommended for the treatment of severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). To date, many countries, including China, have adopted ECMO as a treatment for severe COVID-19. However, marked differences in patient survival rates have been reported, and the underlying reasons are unclear. This study aimed to summarize the experience of using ECMO to treat severe COVID-19 and provide suggestions for improving ECMO management. The effects of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) on the pathophysiology of COVID-19 and the effects of ECMO on the clinical outcomes in patients with severe cases of COVID-19 were reviewed. Recent data from frontline workers involved in the use of ECMO in Wuhan, China, and those experienced in the implementation of artificial heart and lung support strategies were analyzed. There is evidence that ECMO may complicate the pathophysiological state in COVID-19 patients. However, many studies have shown that the appropriate application of ECMO improves the prognosis of such patients. To expand our understanding of the benefits of ECMO for critically ill patients with COVID-19, further prospective, multicenter clinical trials are needed.
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