Neurophysiological Findings and Brain Injury Pattern in Patients on ECMO

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. Brain injury is a major determinant of outcomes in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Neurologic prognostication in ECMO has not been established. Absent electroencephalogram (EEG) reactivity and absent N20 on somatosensory evoked potential (SSEP) are associated with poor outcome in other types of brain injuries, especially following cardiopulmonary arrest. It is currently known if the same criteria are applicable in patients on ECMO. Methods. Continuous EEG (cEEG) was performed for patients with a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) <8 and SSEP data were performed for patients with a motor GCS < 4 in a prospective observational cohort undergoing ECMO at a tertiary center. EEG variables including reactivity were collected. SSEPs were categorized into absence, delay, or presence of N20. Poor outcome was defined as cerebral performance category 3 to 5 at discharge. Results. We present 13 consecutive patients who underwent both cEEG and SSEP. The median time from cannulation to EEG and SSEP were 3 (interquartile range [IQR] = 1-6) and 5 (IQR = 2-7) days, respectively. All patients were in coma and 12 (92%) had poor outcomes. Ten (77%) underwent brain computed tomography, the findings of which explained coma in only 2. Patients (n = 12) with poor outcome had poor variability, absent reactivity, and lack of sleep features with diffusely slow theta-delta background on the EEG. Despite poor outcomes, all had relatively preserved or normal N20 responses. One patient with preserved reactivity and sleep features on the EEG and intact SSEP had a good outcome. Conclusions. Absent EEG reactivity with the preservation of SSEP N20 was associated with poor outcome in comatose ECMO patients. We advise caution in interpreting electrophysiological tests in prognosticating ECMO patients until the patterns and outcomes are better understood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-469
Number of pages8
JournalClinical EEG and Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • EEG
  • extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
  • prognosis
  • somatosensory evoked potential (SSEP)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Neurophysiological Findings and Brain Injury Pattern in Patients on ECMO'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this