Anticoagulation-Free Pediatric Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation: Single-Center Retrospective Study∗

Edon J. Rabinowitz, Megan T. Danzo, Mark J. Anderson, Michael Wallendorf, Pirooz Eghtesady, Ahmed S. Said

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: To analyze hemorrhage and thrombosis data related to anticoagulation-free pediatric extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Design: Retrospective cohort study. Settings: High-volume ECMO single institution data. Patients: Children (0-18 yr) supported with ECMO (>24 hr) with initial anticoagulation-free period of greater than or equal to 6 hours. Interventions: None. Measurements and Main Results: Utilizing consensus American Thoracic Society definitions for hemorrhage and thrombosis on ECMO, we evaluated thrombosis and associated patient and ECMO characteristics during anticoagulation-free period. Thirty-five patients met inclusion criteria from 2018 to 2021 having a median age (interquartile range [IQR]) of 13.5 months (IQR, 3-91 mo), median ECMO duration of 135 hours (IQR, 64-217 hr), and 964 anticoagulation-free hours. Increased RBC transfusion needs were associated with longer anticoagulation-free periods (p = 0.03). We identified 20 thrombotic events: only four during the anticoagulation-free period and occurring in three of 35 (8%) patients. Compared with those without thrombotic events, anticoagulation-free clotting events were associated with younger age (i.e., 0.3 mo [IQR, 0.2-0.3 mo] vs 22.9 mo [IQR, 3.6-112.9 mo]; p = 0.02), lower weight (2.7 kg [IQR, 2.7-3.25 kg] vs 13.2 kg [5.9-36.4 kg]; p = 0.006), support with lower median ECMO flow rate (0.5 kg [IQR, 0.45-0.55 kg] vs 1.25 kg [IQR, 0.65-2.5 kg]; p = 0.04), and longer anticoagulation-free ECMO duration (44.5 hr [IQR, 40-85 hr] vs 17.6 hr [IQR, 13-24.1]; p = 0.008). Conclusions: In selected high-risk-for-bleeding patients, our experience is that we can use ECMO in our center for limited periods without systemic anticoagulation, with lower frequency of patient or circuit thrombosis. Larger multicentered studies are required to assess weight, age, ECMO flow, and anticoagulation-free time limitations that are likely to pose risk for thrombotic events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-509
Number of pages11
JournalPediatric Critical Care Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023


  • anticoagulation
  • bivalirudin
  • direct thrombin inhibitor
  • extracorporeal life support
  • extracorporeal membrane
  • heparin
  • oxygenation


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