Advanced life support can help critically ill COVID-19 patients survive, study shows

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a machine used to pump and oxygenates a patient's blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest, helped a majority of critically ill COVID-19 patients avoid death, a new study shows.

A team led by researchers from Ann Arbor-based Michigan Medicine and National University Health System in Singapore examined data from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization Registry of patients with confirmed COVID-19 who were placed on life support between Jan 16 and May 1, at 213 hospitals in 36 countries. The study was published in The Lancet.

In total, 1,035 patients, 16 years and older, were included in the study. More than half of the patients in the study were treated in hospitals in the United States and Canada.

Of the patients studied, 380 (37 percent) died. Thirty percent of the patients were discharged to their homes or to an acute rehabilitation center; 10 percent were discharged to a long-term acute care center or unspecified location; and 17 percent were discharged to another hospital.

The estimated cumulative incidence of in-hospital death 90 days after being placed on life support was 37.4 percent.

"These results support recommendations to consider ECMO in COVID-19 if the ventilator is failing," said co-lead study author Ryan Barbaro, MD, of Michigan Medicine.

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