Intracranial haemorrhage (ICH) is one of the most serious complications of adult patients treated with venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO) and is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. However, the prevalence and risk factors of ICH in this cohort are still insufficiently understood. We hypothesized that a considerable proportion of patients undergoing VA-ECMO support suffer from ICH and that specific risk factors are associated with the occurrence of ICH. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to further investigate the prevalence and associated mortality as well as to identify risk factors for ICH in VA-ECMO patients.
We conducted a retrospective multicentre study including adult patients (≥18 years) treated with VA-ECMO in cardiac intensive care units (ICUs) at five German clinical sites between January 2016 and March 2020, excluding patients with ICH upon admission. Differences in baseline characteristics and clinical outcome between VA-ECMO patients with and without ICH were analysed and risk factors for ICH were identified. Among the 598 patients included, 70/598 (12%) developed ICH during VA-ECMO treatment. In-hospital mortality in patients with ICH was 57/70 (81%) and 1-month mortality 60/70 (86%), compared to 332/528 (63%) (P = 0.002) and 340/528 (64%) (P < 0.001), respectively, in patients without ICH. Intracranial haemorrhage was positively associated with diabetes mellitus [odds ratio (OR) 2, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.11–3.56; P = 0.020] and lactate (per mmol/L) (OR 1.06, 95% CI 1.01–1.11; P = 0.020), and negatively associated with platelet count (per 100 G/L) (OR 0.32, 95% CI 0.15–0.59; P = 0.001) and fibrinogen (per 100 mg/dL) (OR 0.64, 95% CI 0.49–0.83; P < 0.001).
Intracranial haemorrhage was associated with a significantly higher mortality rate. Diabetes mellitus and lactate were positively, platelet count, and fibrinogen level negatively associated with the occurrence of ICH. Thus, platelet count and fibrinogen level were revealed as potentially modifiable, independent risk factors for ICH. The findings address an area with limited data, provide information about risk factors and the epidemiology of ICH, and may be a starting point for further investigations to develop effective strategies to prevent and treat ICH.