Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) can be lifesaving but can have significant complications that can result in permanent disabilities.

Complications of ECMO include:

(1) systemic thromboemboli with ischemia (stroke, bowel ischemia, limb ischemia, renal infarct, etc)

(2) hearing loss

(3) bleeding (cannulation site, pulmonary, gastrointestinal, cerebral, other)

(4) infection (sepsis, cellulitis)

(5) compartment syndrome

(6) pneumothorax

(7) cannulation site trauma

(8) air embolism

(9) thrombocytopenia and/or DIC

(10) hemolysis or hemolytic anemia

(11) seizures

(12) hypertension

(13) cardiac arrhythmias

(14) acute renal failure

(15) heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT)

(16) leukopenia


Malfunction of the device may also contribute to poor performance, thrombosis, poor oxygenation and poor perfusion.


Differential diagnosis of ECMO complications:

(1) complications of reason for ECMO (cardiogenic shock, respiratory failure, etc)

(2) pre-existing comorbid conditions

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