The eligibility criteria for applying extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation (ECPR) in patients with cardiac arrest are currently unclear. For those patients with hypothermic cardiac arrest, the European Resuscitation Council (ERC) Guidelines recommend considering ECPR only for patients with potassium <8 mmol/L and a body temperature below 32°C, whereas the American Heart Association Guidelines (AHA) do not express this in a specific manner.
We report the case of an urban unwitnessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patient found with her head immersed in water at a temperature of 23°C. The patient presented an unclear history and a dire combination of clinical and laboratory parameters (asystole, arterial blood gas: pH 6.8, potassium 8.3 mmol/L, lactate 16.0 mmol/L). Despite these poor prognostic indicators, ECPR was initiated after 95 minutes of CPR and the patient survived with a good neurological outcome.
This case highlights the uncertainty in ECPR eligibility and prognostication, especially in those with hypothermia and water immersion for whom aggressive therapies may be warranted. Further data and improved strategies are required to delineate candidacy for this resource-intensive procedure better.