The interaction between the patient and the ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) circuit initiates a significant coagulation and inflammatory response due to the large surface area of foreign material contained within the circuit. This response can be blunted with the appropriate mix of biocompatible materials and anticoagulation therapy. The use of anticoagulants, in turn, requires appropriate laboratory testing to determine whether the patient is appropriately anticoagulated. Physicians must balance the risks of bleeding with the risks of thrombosis; the proper interpretation of these tests is often shrouded in mystery. It is the purpose of this chapter to help demystify the coagulation system, anticoagulants, biocompatible surfaces, and coagulation testing so that ECMO practitioners can make informed decisions about their patients and to spur coordinated efforts for future research to improve our understanding of these complex processes.
Part of the book: Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation