Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Case report
Volatile anaesthetic for treatment of respiratory failure from status asthmaticus requiring extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
  1. Joseph E LaGrew,
  2. Kevin Robert Olsen and
  3. Amanda Frantz
  1. Anesthesiology, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, Florida, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Amanda Frantz; afrantz{at}


A 37-year-old male smoker with asthma presented with status asthmaticus refractory to terbutaline, intravenous magnesium, continuous bronchodilators, steroids, heliox and theophylline infusion. He was intubated on hospital day 2 and cannulated for veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (V-V ECMO) on hospital day 3 for refractory respiratory acidosis secondary to hypercapnia and hypoxemia despite maximum medical management over 4 days. He was started on inhaled isoflurane with improvement in peak airway pressures and respiratory acidosis, allowing for prompt weaning from V-V ECMO and extubation. Inhaled volatile anaesthetics exert a direct action on bronchiole smooth muscle causing relaxation with significant effect despite severely impaired pulmonary function. This treatment in patients on ECMO may allow for earlier decannulation and decreased risk of coagulopathy, ECMO circuit failure, infection, renal failure, pulmonary haemorrhage and central nervous system haemorrhage. However, major limitations exist in delivering volatile anaesthetics, which may make use inefficient and costly despite efficacy.

  • asthma
  • mechanical ventilation
  • anaesthesia

Statistics from


  • Contributors JEL, KRO and AF all contributed substantially to the study design, data analysis and interpretation and the writing of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.