Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) occurs when fluid builds up in the alveoli in the lungs. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is increasingly used in patients with ARDS; however, the efficacy of the treatment remains uncertain. This study aims to examine the effect of venovenous ECMO on mortality in patients with ARDS.

This systematic review and meta-analysis of five studies included a total of 773 patients with ARDS. Studies and trials that analyzed the efficacy of venovenous ECMO in patients with ARDS were selected for this analysis. The primary outcome of this study was 60-day mortality across all selected studies and controlled trials.

The primary analysis suggested that 60-day mortality was significantly lower in patients who underwent venovenous ECMO, as compared to those in the control group (34% vs. 47%). The level of evidence for this outcome, according to the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE), was moderate. The included studies indicated the incidence of major hemorrhages in the ECMO group (19%).

The research concluded that in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome, the use of venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation was associated with significantly lower 60-day mortality. However, the treatment was also associated with a higher risk of major hemorrhages.