Open Access Open Badges Research article

Effect of venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation on the heart in a healthy piglet model

Juanhong Shen, Wenkui Yu*, Jialiang Shi, Qiyi Chen, Yimin Hu, Juanjuan Zhang, Tao Gao, Fengchan Xi, Jianfeng Gong, Changsheng He, Ning Li and Jieshou Li

Author Affiliations

Research Institute of General Surgery, Jinling Hospital, Medical School of Nanjing University, 305 East Zhongshan Road, Nanjing 210002, Jiangsu, China

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Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery 2013, 8:163  doi:10.1186/1749-8090-8-163

Published: 28 June 2013



Cardiac function is important for patients treated by venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VV ECMO), but data about the effect of VV ECMO on the heart in nonneonates is absent. We studied the effect of VV ECMO on cardiac performance, cardiomyocyte and mitochondria in an animal model.


Twelve farm piglets were randomly assigned into two groups: control group and ECMO group. In the ECMO group, ECMO cannulaes were placed and ECMO was instituted. Hemodynamics was recorded at baseline, 1 hour after induction, and every 4 hours thereafter, to assess the cardiac performance. All animals were monitored for 24 hours and were euthanized and myocardium was harvested. Myocardial histology, ultrastructure of cardiomyocyte and mitochondria were observed, and activities of mitochondrial complexes I-V were measured, to assess the effect to cardiomyocyte and mitochondria.


Hemodynamics were stable in each group of animals throughout the experiment. Interstitial edema, disorderd and dissolved of focal myofilament, morphological deformations of mitochondria were observed in the ECMO group. The activities of mitochondrial complexes were decreased in the ECMO group, and complex I and IV reached significance.


VV ECMO therapy is associated with changes of ultrastructure and function of cardiomyocyte and mitochondria, inducing myocardium injury. However, the injury was mild and had no effect on the cardiac performance for healthy piglets.