Intoxication and overdose should not preclude veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Perfusion (United Kingdom)




extracorporeal membrane oxygenation; intensive care; respiratory failure; substance overdose


Introduction: Acute intoxication (AI) related morbidity and mortality are increasing in the United States. For patients with severe respiratory failure in the setting of an acute ingestion, veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VV ECMO) can provide salvage therapy. The purpose of this study was to evaluate outcomes in patients with overdose-related need for VV ECMO. Methods: We performed a retrospective review of all patients admitted to a specialty VV ECMO unit between August 2014 and August 2018. Patients were stratified by those whose indication for VV ECMO was directly related to an acute ingestion (alcohol, illicit drug, or prescription drug overdose) and those with unrelated diagnoses. Demographics, pre-cannulation clinical characteristics, ECMO parameters, and outcomes data was collected and analyzed with parametric and non-parametric statistics as indicated. Results: 189 patients were enrolled with 27 (14%) diagnosed with AI. Patients requiring VV ECMO for an AI were younger, had lower median BMI and PaO2/FiO2, and higher RESP scores than non-AI patients (p = 0.002, 0.01, 0.03 and 0.01). There was no difference in pre-cannulation pH, lactate, or SOFA scores between the two groups (p = 0.24, 0.5, 0.6). There was no difference in survival to discharge (p = 0.95). Among survivors, there was no difference in ECMO time or hospital stay (p = 0.24, 0.07). Conclusion: We demonstrate no survival difference for patients with and without an AI-related need for VV ECMO. AI patients should be supported with VV ECMO when traditional therapies fail despite potential stigma against acceptance on referral.