Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)–associated hemolysis still represents a serious complication. The present study aimed to investigate those predictive factors, such as flow rates, the use of anticoagulants, and circuit connected dialysis, that might play a pivotal role in hemolysis in adult patients.
This is a retrospective single-center case series of 35 consecutive adult patients undergoing veno-venous ECMO support at our center between April 2014 and February 2020. Daily plasma-free hemoglobin (pfHb) and haptoglobin (Hpt) levels were chosen as hemolysis markers and they were analyzed along with patients’ characteristics, daily laboratory findings, and corresponding ECMO system variables, as well as continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) when administered, looking for factors influencing their trends over time.
Among the many settings related to the ECMO support, the presence of CRRT connected to the ECMO circuit has been found associated with both higher daily pfHb levels and lower Hpt levels. After correction for potential confounders, hemolysis was ascribable to circuit-related variables, in particular the membrane oxygenation dead space was associated with an Hpt reduction (B = −215.307, p = 0.004). Moreover, a reduction of ECMO blood flow by 1 L/min has been associated with a daily Hpt consumption of 93.371 mg/dL (p = 0.001).
Technical-induced hemolysis during ECMO should be monitored not only when suspected but also during quotidian management and check-ups. While considering the clinical complexity of patients on ECMO support, clinicians should not only be aware of and anticipate possible circuitry malfunctions or inadequate flow settings, but they should also take into account the effects of an ECMO circuit–connected CRRT, as an equally important key factor triggering hemolysis.