Class III obesity is not a contraindication to venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support

Zachary N. Kon, Siamak Dahi, Charles F. Evans, Kimberly A. Byrnes, Gregory J. Bittle, Brody Wehman, Raymond P. Rector, Brian M. McCormick, Daniel L. Herr, Pablo G. Sanchez, Si M. Pham, Bartley P. Griffith

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47 Scopus citations


Background The use of venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) has increased as a bridge to recovery for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) refractory to conventional support. Morbid obesity can pose a significant challenge to obtaining indexed flows, and outcomes in this population are not well described. Methods Patients requiring ECMO for ARDS between January 2009 and November 2012 were retrospectively reviewed. Demographics, ECMO variables, and outcomes were assessed. Morbid obesity and super obesity were defined as a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 kg/m2 and greater than 50 kg/m2, respectively. Results Fifty-five patients with ARDS were placed on ECMO during the study period. Twelve were morbidly obese with a BMI of 49.0 kg/m2 (interquartile range [IQR]: 45.4-57.3 kg/m2). Pre-ECMO mechanical ventilatory support and indices of disease severity were similar between the 2 groups, as were cannulation strategy and duration of ECMO support. Nine (75%) morbidly obese patients and 27 (63%) non-morbidly obese patients were successfully weaned from ECMO support, and patient survival to time of discharge was 67% and 58%, respectively. In the subset of super obese patients (n = 6; BMI, 57.3 kg/m2 [IQR: 51.3-66.5 kg/m2]), recovery and midterm survival was 100%. Conclusions In this review, class III obesity was not associated with poorer outcomes, and based on these data, ECMO support should not be withheld from this patient population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1855-1860
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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