Author(s): Rigby MR
OBJECTIVE: Thoracentesis with chest tube placement is often needed to decompress a clinically significant pneumothorax or pleural effusion. The risks of such a procedure may be considered too great to perform on a systemically anticoagulated patient supported by extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
RESULTS: An 8-year-old child with respiratory failure due to necrotizing pneumonia and autoimmune vasculitis, on veno-venous ECMO, developed a severe tension pneumothorax that required emergent decompression with a chest tube. Post-procedure, the patient developed a hemothorax that was approaching non-sustainability. We developed a strategy based on Virchow's triad to favor homeostasis in the patient while avoiding thrombosis in the ECMO circuit. We employed selective lung ventilation, passive pleural drainage, high flow ECMO, and aggressive coagulation cascade control, including the use of aminocaproic acid and activated factor VIIa. Following this strategy, the hemorrhage was controlled and, later, the patient was able to successfully come off ECMO.
CONCLUSIONS: With careful coagulation cascade manipulation, complete lung rest for the affected lung, control of ECMO blood flow, and prudent hemothorax drainage, we were able to facilitate hemostasis that was required for the successful recovery of our patient while avoiding critical ECMO circuit thrombosis. Even with today's highly advanced medical technologies, centuries-old basic medical principles can still assist in the care of our sickest and most complex patients. Chest tube placement while on ECMO is rare and, although necessary, may be a risky procedure. With precise coagulation control, it can be a successful procedure on ECMO.Journal of Pulmonary & Respiratory Medicine