Media Reports Paint Overly Rosy Picture of ECMO

By Reuters Staff

January 05, 2021

(Reuters) - News reports about critically ill COVID-19 patients treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) may be painting an unrealistic picture of outcomes, a study suggests.

In a review of media reports about ECMO treatment of COVID-19, doctors found that 92% of patients in the stories survived, whereas average survival rates after ECMO in large studies have ranged from 53% in children to 63% in young and middle-aged adults.

Patients receiving the ECMO treatment "remain at substantial risk" of complications and death, but most news reports of COVID-19 patients treated with ECMO did not address these risks, the researchers said in JAMA Internal Medicine.

They say recognition of the exaggerated benefit suggested by media reports may help intensive care unit doctors, patients and families have more realistic discussions about prognosis after ECMO.

SOURCE: JAMA Internal Medicine, online January 4, 2020.