Transpulmonary thermodilution before and during veno-venous extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation ECMO: an observational study on a potential loss of indicator into the extra-corporeal circuit


Haemodynamic monitoring before extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) might help to optimize the effectiveness of ECMO. However, there are concerns that pulmonary arterial and trans-pulmonary thermodilution (TPTD) might be confounded by a loss of indicator into the ECMO-circuit, resulting in an overestimation of volumetric parameters. Since there is a lack of data on indicator dilution techniques during ECMO, we compared TPTD-measurements before and during ECMO. TPTD-derived parameters before and after initiation of ECMO were compared in 14 intensive care unit-patients with veno-venous ECMO and TPTD-monitoring (PiCCO®). Eight patients had a jugular and six patients a femoral central venous catheter (CVC). Cardiac index, global end-diastolic volume index (GEDVI) and extra-vascular lung water index (EVLWI) before ECMO as well as the ECMO-flow were comparable in patients with jugular and femoral CVC. Pre-ECMO, cardiac index (CI) was not significantly different compared to values during ECMO (4.5 ± 1.7 vs. 4.4 ± 2.1 L/min/m2; p = 0.43). By contrast, GEDVI (791 ± 179 vs. 974 ± 384 mL/m2; p = 0.04) and EVLWI (21 ± 9 vs. 28 ± 11 mL/kg; p < 0.01) were higher during ECMO than before. Increases in GEDVI (36 ± 210 vs. 378 ± 247 mL/m2; p = 0.02) and EVLWI (3 ± 2 vs. 11 ± 8 mL/kg; p = 0.06) were substantially more pronounced in patients with femoral compared to jugular indicator injection. In multivariate analysis, femoral indicator injection was independently associated with larger increases in GEDVI (p < 0.01) and EVLWI (p = 0.04) during ECMO. However, CI and haemodynamic parameters not derived from TPTD, but from pulse contour analysis (systolic and diastolic arterial pressure, stroke volume variation and pulse pressure variation) were not affected by the start of ECMO. Our study demonstrates marked increases in GEDVI and EVLWI after the onset of ECMO. These increases were more pronounced for femoral compared to jugular indicator injection. CI and haemodynamic parameters not derived from TPTD were not affected by the extra-corporeal circuit.

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Arterial pressure


Acute respiratory distress syndrome


Pulmonary blood volume


Cardiac index


Cardiac output


Cardiac power index


Controlled ventilation


Central venous catheter


Central venous pressure


Downslope time


Dynamic arterial elastance


Extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation


Extra-vascular lung water index


Global end-diastolic volume index


Hepatopulmonary syndrome


Intensive care unit


Loss of indicator


Mean transit time


Pulmonary arterial catheter


Pulse contour analysis


Pulmonary blood volume


Pulse pressure variation


Partial thromboplastin time


Pulmonary thermal volume


Pulmonary vascular permeability index


Randomized controlled trial


Sinus rhythm


Stroke volume variation


Trans-pulmonary thermodilution


Intra-thoracic thermal volume




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Correspondence to Wolfgang Huber.

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Wolfgang Huber collaborates with Pulsion Medical Systems SE, Feldkirchen, Germany as Member of the Medical Advisory Board. All other authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Herner, A., Lahmer, T., Mayr, U. et al. Transpulmonary thermodilution before and during veno-venous extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation ECMO: an observational study on a potential loss of indicator into the extra-corporeal circuit. J Clin Monit Comput 34, 923–936 (2020).

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  • Extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation
  • Trans-pulmonary thermodilution
  • Cardiac output
  • Pulse contour analysis
  • Global end-diastolic volume index
  • Extra-vascular lung water index