Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for patients with acute respiratory failure: Uncertain if it is better or worse than conventional lung support

Added March 18, 2020

Citation: Tramm R, Ilic D, Davies AR, et al. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for critically ill adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015; (1): CD010381

What is this? Some patients with COVID-19 will become critically ill and need help with their breathing. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a form of life support that targets the heart and lungs and which might be used for them.

In this Cochrane systematic review, the authors searched for randomized and quasi-randomized trials testing the use of ECMO for acute respiratory failure. They did not restrict by language or location of publication and did their searches in August 2014. They identified 4 randomized trials which compared ECMO versus conventional lung support (389 participants).

What works: Nothing noted.

What doesn’t work: Nothing noted.

What’s uncertain: It is uncertain whether ECMO is, or is not, more effective than conventional lung support in reducing mortality among patients with acute respiratory failure.


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