ECLS-associated infections in adults: what we know and what we don’t yet know

Darryl Abrams, Giacomo Grasselli, Matthieu Schmidt, Thomas Mueller, Daniel Brodie

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Extracorporeal life support (ECLS) is increasingly used in the management of patients with severe cardiopulmonary disease. Infections are frequently the etiologies underlying the respiratory, and occasionally cardiac, failure that necessitates ECLS. Just as importantly, infections are among the most commonly reported adverse events during ECLS. Infections in this setting may be the sequelae of prolonged critical illness or of underlying immune dysregulation; they may be hospital-acquired infections, and they may or may not be attributable to the presence of ECLS itself, the latter being an aspect that can be difficult to determine. Current registry data and evidence from the literature offer some insights, but also leave open many questions regarding the nature and significance of infections reported both before and during ECLS, including the question of any causal link between ECLS and the development of infections. An ongoing lack of consistency in the identification, diagnosis, management, and prevention of infections during ECLS is limiting our ability to interpret literature data and thus highlighting the need for more rigorous investigation and standardization of definitions. This review aims to characterize the current understanding of infections associated with the use of ECLS, taking into account data from the updated Extracorporeal Life Support Organization Registry, which provides important context for understanding the epidemiology and outcomes of these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-191
JournalIntensive Care Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Complications
  • ECLS
  • ECMO
  • ELSO registry
  • Infections
  • Nosocomial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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