The role of endoscopy as non-invasive procedure to manage gastrointestinal complications during extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

Michele Amata, Gennaro Martucci*, Antonino Granata, Fabio Tuzzolino, Giovanna Panarello, Claudia Bianco, Roberto Lorusso, Mario Traina, Antonio Arcadipane

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review



Gastrointestinal bleeding is a life-threatening complication in patients undergoing extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support. Despite data on increased mortality due to gastrointestinal bleeding, there is little data on the treatment of such conditions under extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and on the possibilities of advanced endoscopic therapy to non-invasively solve these bleeding complications. No clear treatment in the case of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support is recommended in the guidelines.


Retrospective observational cohort study including 134 veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation patients for acute respiratory failure from 2009 to 2018 at IRCCS-ISMETT (Italy). Patients were divided into two groups according to gastrointestinal bleeding episodes and reviewed for type of endoscopic therapy. Gastrointestinal bleeding group was characterized for pre-extracorporeal membrane oxygenation characteristics, management variables-including amount of transfusions and clinical outcomes.


Fourteen (14) patients (10.4%) experienced upper (n = 13) or lower (n = 1) gastrointestinal bleeding. Gastrointestinal bleeding and no-gastrointestinal bleeding group had similar characteristics apart from higher creatinine in the gastrointestinal bleeding group (1.9 mg/dL (1.3-4.9) vs 1.2 mg/dL (0.7-1.8), p = 0.03). In 3 of the 14 patients (21%), endoscopy showed no signs of active bleeding (nasogastric or feeding tube decubitus), and no specific intervention was performed. Active bleeding was recognized in 11 of the 14 patients (79 %). No patients died of fatal bleeding in the gastrointestinal bleeding group. Endoscopic therapy was feasible, with a complete bleeding control in all the cases: five Hemospray(R), two fibrin glue, two metallic clips, one combined approach metallic clips with epinephrine, and one cyanoacrylate. The extracorporeal membrane oxygenation course was significantly longer in the gastrointestinal bleeding group: 19.5 (15-36) days vs 13.5 (8-25) days, p = 0.01. No significant differences in mortality were found between the two groups (all p values > 0.05).


Advanced endoscopic therapy during veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation may contribute to reducing the negative effects on mortality for gastrointestinal bleeding episodes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)786-794
Number of pages9
Issue number8
Early online date10 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
  • gastrointestinal bleeding
  • stress ulcer
  • endoscopy
  • Hemospray

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