Palliative Care Utilization in Patients Requiring Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation: An Observational Study

Publication Name

ASAIO Journal


Palliative care (PC) is a model of care centered around improving the quality of life for individuals with life-limiting illnesses. Few studies have examined its impact in patients on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). We aimed to describe demographics, clinical characteristics, and complications associated with PC consultation in adult patients requiring ECMO support. We analyzed data from an ECMO registry, including patients aged 18 years and older who have received either venoarterial (VA)- or venovenous (VV)-ECMO support between July 2016 and September 2021. We used analysis of variance and Fisher exact tests to identify factors associated with PC consultation. Of 256, 177 patients (69.1%) received VA-ECMO support and 79 (30.9%) received VV-ECMO support. Overall, 115 patients (44.9%) received PC consultation while on ECMO. Patients receiving PC consultation were more likely to be non-white (47% vs. 53%, p = 0.016), have an attending physician from a medical versus surgical specialty (65.3% vs. 39.6%), have VV-ECMO (77.2% vs. 30.5%, p < 0.001), and have longer ECMO duration (6.2 vs. 23.0, p < 0.001). Patients were seen by the PC team on an average of 7.6 times (range, 1-35), with those who died having significantly more visits (11.2 vs. 5.6, p < 0.001) despite the shorter hospital stay. The average time from cannulation to the first PC visit was 5.3 ± 5 days. Congestive heart failure in VA-ECMO, coronavirus disease 2019 infection in VV-ECMO, and non-white race and longer ECMO duration for all patients were associated with PC consultation. We found that despite the benefits of PC, it is underused in this population.

Open Access Status

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Funding Number

TL1 TR003100

Funding Sponsor

National Institutes of Health



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