The Role of Palliative Care in Withdrawal of Venoarterial Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for Cardiogenic Shock

Sarah Godfrey, Aradhana Sahoo, Joseph Sanchez, Justin Fried, Amirali Masoumi, Daniel Brodie, Hiroo Takayama, Nir Uriel, Koji Takeda, Shunichi Nakagawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: As the use of venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO) increases, decisions regarding withdrawal from VA-ECMO increase. Objectives: To evaluate the clinical characteristics of patients withdrawn from VA-ECMO and the role of palliative care consultation in the decision. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed adult patients with cardiogenic shock requiring VA-ECMO at our institution, who were withdrawn from VA-ECMO between January 1, 2014 and May 31, 2019. The relationship between clinical characteristics and palliative care visits was assessed, and documented reasons for withdrawal were identified. Results: Of 460 patients who received VA-ECMO, 91 deceased patients (19.8%) were included. Forty-two patients (44.8%) had a palliative care consultation. The median duration on VA-ECMO was 4.0 days (interquartile range 8.8), and it was significantly longer for patients with palliative care consultation than those without (8.8 days vs. 2.0 days, P < 0.001). Among those with palliative care consultation, those with early consultation (within three days) had significantly shorter duration of VA-ECMO compared with those with late consultation (7.6 days vs. 13.5 days, t = 2.022, P = 0.008). Twenty-two (24.2%) had evidence of brain injury, which was significantly associated with patient age, number of comorbidities, duration of VA-ECMO, number of life-sustaining therapies, and number of palliative care visits (Wilks lambda 0.8925, DF 5,121, P = 0.016). Presence of brain injury was associated with fewer palliative care visits (t = 2.82, P = 0.006). Conclusion: Shorter duration of VA-ECMO support and presence of brain injury were associated with fewer palliative care visits. Decisions around withdrawal of VA-ECMO support might be less complicated when patient's medical conditions deteriorate quickly or when neurological prognosis seems poor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1139-1146
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiogenic shock
  • ECMO
  • end-of-life care
  • goals of care
  • heart failure
  • palliative care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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