• Medicines are administered for comfort, and to aid with rest and sleep. You may hear the terms sedation or chemical paralysis. This long-term restful state increases the amount of oxygen the body intakes for healing.
• Blood thinners may be administered to reduce the risk of developing blood clots while on ECMO.
• Antibiotics are given to treat or prevent the spread of infections.
• A ventilator is used to push air in and out of the lungs. It works in conjunction with the ECMO circuit.
• The patient may have a tracheostomy. Also called a trach tube, it is a small tube that is placed into the neck to help direct air in and out of the lungs.
• A feeding tube is often used to provide nutrition. It is placed through the nose or mouth and down into the stomach.
• If there are kidney problems, a continuous dialysis treatment may be administered using a device that is connected to the ECMO circuit removing toxins from the body.
• There are regular checks of vital signs such as temperature, heart rate, and breathing.
• Tests will be performed to check for the placement of tubes and cannulas including chest x-rays or Computerized Tomography (CT) scans.
• Other tests, such as daily blood tests, are administered to see how the patient is responding to treatment.
Caring for Your Loved One
Once your loved one is placed on ECMO, there will be several physicians and other care providers involved in his/her care. The intensive care unit staff (physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, and physician assistants) along with the heart surgeons, will be responsible for the daily care of the patient.
The ECMO specialist nurse is specifically-trained to operate the ECMO circuit supervised by the perfusionist. A licensed perfusionist is trained in the management and operation of the ECMO circuit.
There are also professional staff members available to take care of you and your family’s needs. If you need help dealing with emotional issues or if there is anything else we can do for you, please let a member of the ECMO team know.
What Is the Family’s Role?
• Be involved in the daily rounds with the doctors if you wish.
• Bring photographs, or any familiar items to your loved one.
• Feel free to touch your loved one and talk to them. If you have any concerns about touching them, ask the nurse or ECMO specialist for help.
• Take care of yourself during this time. Becoming sick yourself will not help your loved one.
• Call any time of day or night to check up on your loved one.
There may be times when we ask you to step out of the room and wait in the waiting room so we can provide the best possible care for your loved one. We will allow you to return as soon as possible.