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Acute oxygenator failure: a new presentation of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia in a patient undergoing venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support
  1. Robert A Ratzlaff1,
  2. Juan G Ripoll1,
  3. Lena L Kassab1,
  4. Jose L Diaz-Gomez2
  1. 1Department of Critical Care Medicine, Mayo Clinic's Campus in Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, USA
  2. 2Department of Critical Care Medicine, Anesthesiology and Neurosurgery, Mayo Clinic's Campus in Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jose L Diaz-Gomez, diazgomez.jose{at}


A 58-year-old man with medical history of thrombocytopenia was admitted to an outside hospital for a 6-day history of worsening dyspnoea requiring mechanical ventilator support. He was transferred to our institution for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) given his refractory hypoxaemia. On arrival, H1N1 influenza virus was confirmed and all measures to improve oxygenation were ineffective. Thus, the decision was made to start venovenous (VV)-ECMO. Although a low baseline platelet count was recognised (60–70×109/L), a sudden further decrease occurred (30×109/L) and platelet transfusion was initiated. A substantial increase in the pressure across the ECMO oxygenator was identified, and the diagnosis of type II heparin-induced thrombocytopenia was suspected and confirmed. Heparin was discontinued, the oxygenator was exchanged and argatroban was used for anticoagulation. After 28 days on VV-ECMO support, the decision was made to withdraw organ support in conjunction with the patient and family wishes.

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  • Contributors RAR, JGR, LLK and JLD-G interpreted data, researched and wrote the paper. RAR and JLD-G revised and contributed critically important intellectual content. All authors contributed substantially to the work. All authors discussed the results and implications and commented on the paper at all stages.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

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