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Background: Cognitive dysfunction is often reported in patients who have experienced acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) therapy is increasingly used to manage ARDS patients in ICU, transforming survival rates. However, few studies have examined cognitive outcomes. Methods: We examined self-reported cognitive complaints, psychiatric outcomes and neuropsychological test performance in survivors of severe hypoxaemia managed with VV-ECMO, at 18–24 month follow-up, compared with a group of healthy controls. Results: Over 70% of ECMO-treated patients (N = 46) complained of difficulty in at least one aspect of cognition on self-report measures (study 1). However, a much lower frequency of cognitive impairment was found on formal neuropsychological testing (study 2). Mean neuropsychological test scores of the ECMO group (N = 24) did not significantly differ from healthy controls (N = 23) after controlling for depression. Less than 30% of ECMO-treated patients showed impairments in anterograde memory, and deficits on general IQ or executive function were seen in <17% of patients. However, we observed high levels of self-reported anxiety and depression in the ECMO-treated patients. Conclusions: Cognitive outcomes in ECMO-treated patients were generally good, with preserved neuropsychological function in the majority of patients, despite severe hypoxaemia and high rates of self-reported difficulties. However, we saw high levels of mental health symptoms in these patients, highlighting a need for psychological support.

Original publication




Journal article


Respiratory Medicine

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