Active rehabilitation during extracorporeal membrane oxygenation as a bridge to lung transplantation.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Patients with end-stage lung disease often progress to critical illness, which dramatically reduces their chance of survival following lung transplantation. Pre-transplant deconditioning has a significant impact on outcomes for all lung transplant patients, and is likely a major contributor to increased mortality in critically ill lung transplant recipients. The aim of this report is to describe a series of patients bridged to lung transplant with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and to examine the potential impact of active rehabilitation and ambulation during pre-transplant ECMO.


This retrospective case series reviews all patients bridged to lung transplantation with ECMO at a single tertiary care lung transplant center. Pre-transplant ECMO patients receiving active rehabilitation and ambulation were compared to those patients who were bridged with ECMO but did not receive pre-transplant rehabilitation.


Nine consecutive subjects between April 2007 and May 2012 were identified for inclusion. One-year survival for all subjects was 100%, with one subject alive at 4 months post-transplant. The 5 subjects participating in pre-transplant rehabilitation had shorter mean post-transplant mechanical ventilation (4 d vs 34 d, P = .01), ICU stay (11 d vs 45 d, P = .01), and hospital stay (26 d vs 80 d, P = .01). No subject who participated in active rehabilitation had post-transplant myopathy, compared to 3 of 4 subjects who did not participate in pre-transplant rehabilitation on ECMO.


Bridging selected critically ill patients to transplant with ECMO is a viable treatment option, and active participation in physical therapy, including ambulation, may provide a more rapid post-transplantation recovery. This innovative strategy requires further study to fully evaluate potential benefits and risks.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Rehder, KJ; Turner, DA; Hartwig, MG; Williford, WL; Bonadonna, D; Walczak, RJ; Davis, RD; Zaas, D; Cheifetz, IM

Published Date

  • August 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 58 / 8

Start / End Page

  • 1291 - 1298

PubMed ID

  • 23232742

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC4346557

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1943-3654

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0020-1324

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.4187/respcare.02155


  • eng