NYMC Faculty Publications

Cannulation-Related Adverse Events of Peripheral Veno-Arterial Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Support in Heart Transplantation: Axillary versus Femoral Artery Cannulation

Author Type(s)

Student, Faculty

Journal Title

Clinical Transplantation

First Page


Document Type


Publication Date




Second Department



BACKGROUND: In heart transplantation (HT), peripheral veno-arterial extracorporeal membranous oxygenation (VA-ECMO) is utilized preoperatively as a direct bridge to HT or postoperatively for primary graft dysfunction (PGD). Little is known about wound complications of an arterial VA-ECMO cannulation site which can be fatal. METHODS: From 2009 to 2021, outcomes of 80 HT recipients who were supported with peripheral VA-ECMO either preoperatively or postoperatively were compared based on the site of arterial cannulation: axillary (AX: N = 49) versus femoral artery (FA: N = 31). RESULTS: Patients in the AX group were older (AX: 59 years vs. 52 years, p = .006), and less likely to have extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation (0% vs. 12.9%, p = .040). Survival to discharge (AX, 81.6% vs. FA. 90.3%, p = .460), incidence of stroke (10.2% vs. 6.5%, p = .863), VA-ECMO cannulation-related bleeding (6.1% vs. 12.9%, p = .522), and arm or limb ischemia (0% vs. 3.2%, p = .816) were comparable. ECMO cannulation-related wound complications were lower in the AX group (AX, 4.1% vs. FA, 45.2%, p < .001) including the wound infections (2.0% vs. 32.3%, p < .001). In FA group, all organisms were gram-negative species. In univariate logistic regression analysis, AX cannulation was associated with less ECMO cannulation-related wound complications (Odds ratio, .23, p < .001). There was no difference between cutdown and percutaneous FA insertion regarding cannulation-related complications. CONCLUSIONS: Given the lower rate of wound complications and comparable hospital outcomes with femoral cannulation, axillary VA-ECMO may be an excellent option in HT candidates or recipients when possible.