Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation without systemic anticoagulation: a case-series in challenging conditions

Dario Fina*, Matteo Matteucci, Federica Jiritano, Paolo Meani, Mariusz Kowalewski, Andrea Ballotta, Marco Ranucci, Roberto Lorusso

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) use in patients with active bleedings or traumatic injuries may be challenging because of the risk of refractory haemorrhage related to systemic anticoagulation (SA). Technological advancements, especially heparin coated circuits, allowed ECMO application with a mild or no anticoagulation regimen in some circumstances. We herein report a limited case-series of ECMO application without anticoagulation.

Methods: ECMO without SA was established in 6 patients. Four of them received veno-arterial mode. Full heparin antagonization with protamine was provided in 3 post-cardiotomy cases. Tip-to-tip heparin-coated ECMO circuit was used in 4 patients, whereas heparin-coated tubing and no heparin-coated cannulas were applied for the remaining subjects.

Results: Mean duration of support and pump flow were 10 +/- 4 hours and 3.0 +/- 0.7 litres respectively. No ECMO related complication or oxygenator failure occurred, nor was clotting of the circuit observed at inspection. All patients were weaned from ECMO and half of them survived and were discharged.

Conolusions: Short ECMO duration without anticoagulation was feasible and provided effective cardiopulmonary support in patients with active bleeding or high hemorrhagic risk. Further investigations are needed to evaluate its benefits or limitations for a protracted time, in a wider range of clinical conditions and in larger patient populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2113-2119
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Thoracic Disease
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECHO)
  • anticoagulation
  • bleeding
  • hemorrhage
  • hemostasis

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