Refractory Pulmonary Edema and Upper Body Hypoxemia During Veno-Arterial Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation—A Case for Atrial Septostomy

Amit Prasad, Ali Ghodsizad, Christoph Brehm, Mark Kozak, Michael Körner, Aly El Banayosy, Kai Singbartl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO) provides mechanical circulatory support for patients with advanced cardiogenic shock, facilitating myocardial recovery and limiting multi-organ failure. In patients with severely limited left ventricular ejection, peripheral VA-ECMO can further increase left ventricular and left atrial pressures (LAP). Failure to decompress the left heart under these circumstances can result in pulmonary edema and upper body hypoxemia, that is, myocardial and cerebral ischemia. Atrial septostomy can decrease LAP in these situations. However, the effects of atrial septostomy on upper body oxygenation remain unknown. After IRB approval, we identified 9 out of 242 adult VA-ECMO patients between January 2011 and June 2016 who also underwent atrial septostomy for refractory pulmonary edema/upper body hypoxemia. We analyzed LAP/pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (PCWP), right atrial pressures (RAPs), PaO2/FiO2 ratios (blood samples from right radial artery), intrathoracic volume status, and resolution of pulmonary edema before and up to 48 h after septostomy. There were no procedure-related complications. Thirty-day survival was 44%. LAP/PCWP decreased by approximately 40% immediately following septostomy and remained so for at least 24 h. PaO2/FiO2 ratios significantly increased from 0.49 (0.38–2.12) before to 5.35 (3.01–7.69) immediately after septostomy and continued so for 24 h, 6.6 (4.49–10.93). Radiographic measurements also indicated a significant improvement in thoracic intravascular volume status after atrial septostomy. Atrial septostomy reduces LAP and improves upper body oxygenation and intrathoracic vascular volume status in patients developing severe refractory pulmonary edema while undergoing peripheral VA-ECMO. Atrial septostomy therefore appears safe and suitable to reduce the risk of upper body ischemia under these circumstances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)664-669
Number of pages6
JournalArtificial organs
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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