Low-dose heparin anticoagulation during extracorporeal life support for acute respiratory distress syndrome in conscious sheep

Nicolas J. Prat, Andrew D. Meyer*, Thomas Langer, Robbie K. Montgomery, Bijaya K. Parida, Andriy I. Batchinsky, Andrew P. Cap

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background: Over 32% of burned battlefield causalities develop trauma-induced hypoxic respiratory failure, also known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Recently, 9 out of 10 US combat soldiers' survived lifethreatening trauma-induced ARDS supported with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a portable form of cardiopulmonary bypass. Unfortunately, the size, incidence of coagulation complications, and the need for systematic anticoagulation for traditional ECMO devices have prevented widespread use of this lifesaving technology. Therefore, a compact, mobile, ECMO system using minimal anticoagulation may be the solution to reduce ARDS in critically ill military and civilian patients. Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort laboratory investigation to evaluate the coagulation function in an ovine model of oleic acid induced ARDS supported with veno-venous ECMO. The experimental design approximated the time needed to transport from a battlefield setting to an advanced facility and compared bolus versus standard heparin anticoagulation therapy. Results: Comprehensive coagulation and hemostasis assays did not show any difference because of ECMO support over 10 h between the two groups but did show changes because of injury. Platelet count and function did decrease with support on ECMO, but there was no significant bleeding or clot formation during the entire experiment. Conclusions: A bolus heparin injection is sufficient to maintain ECMO support for up to 10 h in an ovine model of ARDS. With a reduced need for systematic anticoagulation, ECMO use for battlefield trauma could reduce significant morbidity and mortality from ventilator-induced lung injury and ARDS. Future studies will investigate the mechanisms and therapies to support patients for longer periods on ECMO without coagulation complications. Level of Evidence: V-therapeutic animal experiment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)560-568
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Anticoagulation
  • Blood platelet
  • Extracorporeal life support
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
  • Trauma


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