Anticoagulation is critical in patients supported on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). The appropriate monitoring strategies for heparin remain unclear.
This systematic review aimed to compare the accuracy and safety of various monitoring strategies for patients supported on ECMO.
The PubMed and Web of Science databases were searched for articles in March 2023 without restrictions on publication date. Anticoagulation monitoring strategies for adults supported on ECMO were compared across all included studies. The incidence of bleeding, thrombosis, mortality, blood transfusion, correlation between tests and heparin dose, and the discordance between different tests were discussed in the included studies. The risk of bias was assessed using the Newcastle–Ottawa Scale and Cochrane Collaboration’s tool.
Twenty-six studies, including a total of 1,684 patients, met the inclusion criteria. The monitoring of anticoagulation by activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) resulted in less blood product transfusion than that by activated clotting time (ACT). Moreover, the monitoring of anticoagulation by anti-factor Xa (Anti-Xa) resulted in a more stable anticoagulation than that by aPTT. Anti-Xa and aPTT correlated with heparin dose better than ACT, and the discordance between different monitoring tests was common. Finally, combined monitoring showed some advantages in reducing mortality and blood product transfusion.
Anti-Xa and aPTT are more suitable for anticoagulation monitoring for patients supported on ECMO than ACT. Thromboelastography and combination strategies are less applied. Most of the studies were retrospective, and their sample sizes were relatively small; thus, more appropriate monitoring strategies and higher quality research are needed.