Surviving refractory out-of-hospital ventricular fibrillation cardiac arrest: Critical care and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation management

Jason A Bartos, Kathleen Carlson, Claire Carlson, Ganesh Raveendran, Ranjit John, Tom P. Aufderheide, Demetri Yannopoulos

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117 Scopus citations


Background: Resuscitation of refractory out-of-hospital ventricular fibrillation/ventricular tachycardia (VF/VT) cardiac arrest using extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) establishes a complex patient population. We aimed to describe the critical care strategies and outcomes in this population. Methods: Between December 1, 2015 and January 1, 2018, 100 consecutive adult patients with refractory VF/VT out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and ongoing CPR were transported to the cardiac catheterization laboratory. ECMO, coronary angiography, and percutaneous coronary intervention were performed. Patients achieving an organized cardiac rhythm were admitted to the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU). All patients were considered eligible for necessary intervention/surgery until declaration of death. Results: Of 100 appropriately transported patients, 83 achieved CICU admission. 40/83 (48%) discharged functionally intact. Multi-system organ failure occurred in all patients. Cardiac, pulmonary, renal, and liver injury improved within 3–4 days. Neurologic injury caused death in 26/37 (70%) patients. Poor neurologic outcomes were associated with anoxic injury or cerebral edema on admission head CT, decline in cerebral oximetry over the first 48 h, and elevated neuron specific enolase on CICU admission. For survivors, mean time to ECMO decannulation was 3.5 ± 0.2 days, following commands at 5.7 ± 0.8 days, and hospital discharge at 21 ± 3.2 days. 41/83 (49%) patients developed infections. CPR caused traumatic injury requiring procedural/surgical intervention in 22/83 (27%) patients. Conclusions: Multi-system organ failure is ubiquitous but treatable with adequate hemodynamic support. Neurologic recovery was prolonged requiring delayed prognostication. Immediate 24/7 availability of surgical and medical specialty expertise was required to achieve 48% functionally intact survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-55
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors


  • Cardiac arrest
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • Extracorporeal life support
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
  • Refractory ventricular fibrillation
  • Resuscitation
  • Sudden cardiac death
  • Ventricular fibrillation


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