Brain magnetic resonance imaging in adult survivors of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

Bradley Ashley Ong, Romergryko Geocadin, Chun Woo Choi, Glenn Whitman, Sung Min Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the common occurrence of neurologic complications in patients with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), data on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings in adult ECMO are limited. We aimed to describe the MRI findings of patients after ECMO cannulation. Records of patients who underwent ECMO from September 2017 to June 2019 were reviewed. MRI studies were performed using multiplanar sequences consisting of T1-, T2-weighted, fluid attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR), diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), and susceptibility weighted images (SWI). Of the 78 adult patients who underwent ECMO, 26 (33%) survived. Of 26, eight patients (31%) had MRI studies, with a median age of 47 years (interquartile range [IQR]: 25–57). The median ECMO support time was 8 days (IQR: 4–25) and the median time from decannulation to MRI was 12 days (IQR: 1–34). Five (63%) of eight patients had ischemic infarcts; 4 (50%) had cerebral microhemorrhage; 2 (25%) had intracranial hemorrhage; and 1 (13%) had thoracic cord ischemic infarct. There were no patients with normal MRI. All patients underwent transcranial Doppler (TCD). Four of 8 (50%) showed presence of microemboli with TCD; 3 of 4 (75%) had ischemic infarcts; and 1 of 4 (25%) had presence of multiple cerebral microhemorrhages on MRI. All ischemic infarcts had diffuse pattern of punctate to small lesions for ECMO survivors. The location of cerebral microhemorrhages included lobar (n = 4, 100%), deep (n = 2, 50%), and both (n = 2, 50%). Of the MRI studies, cerebrovascular related lesions were the most frequent, with punctate ischemic infarct being the most common type that may be associated with TCD microemboli. The results of the study suggest that subclinical cerebral lesions are commonly found in patients with ECMO support. Further research is needed to understand long-term effect of these cerebral lesions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)814-824
Number of pages11
JournalPerfusion (United Kingdom)
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • MRI
  • extracoporeal membrane oxygenation
  • neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Safety Research
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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