Withdrawal of Temporary Mechanical Circulatory Support in Patients With Capacity



      Little is known about the real-time decision-making process of patients with capacity to choose withdrawal of temporary mechanical circulatory support (MCS).


      To assess how withdrawal of temporary MCS occurs when patients possess the capacity to make this decision themselves.


      This retrospective case series included adults supported by CentriMag Acute Circulatory Support or Veno-Arterial Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation from February 2, 2007 to May 27, 2020 at a tertiary academic medical center who possessed capacity to participate in end-of-life discussions. Authors performed chart review to determine times between “initiation of temporary MCS,” “determination of ‘bridge to nowhere,’” “patient expressing desire to withdraw,” “agreement to withdraw,” “withdrawal,” and “death,” as well as reasons for withdrawal and the role of ethics, psychiatry, and palliative care.


      A total of 796 individuals were included. MCS was withdrawn in 178 (22.4%) of cases. Six of these 178 patients (3.4%) possessed the capacity to decide to withdraw MCS. Time between “patient expressing desire to withdraw” and “agreement to withdraw” ranged from 0 to 3 days; time between “agreement to withdraw” and “withdrawal” ranged from 0 to 6 days. Common reasons for withdrawal include perceived decline in quality of life or low probability of recovery. Ethics and psychiatry were consulted in 3 of 6 cases and palliative care in 5 of 6 cases.


      While it is rare for patients on MCS to request withdrawal, such cases provide insight into reasons for withdrawal and the important roles of multidisciplinary teams in helping patients and families through end-of-life decision-making.


      MCS (mechanical circulatory support), VA-ECMO (veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), STVAD (short-term ventricular assist device), LVAD (left ventricular assist device), OHT (orthotopic heart transplant), ICU (intensive care unit)

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