The Role of Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Simulation Training at Extracorporeal Life Support Organization Centers in the United States

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Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) requires a multidisciplinary healthcare team. The Extracorporeal Life Support Organization publishes training guidelines but leaves specific requirements up to each institution. Simulation training has shown promise, but it is unclear how many institutions have incorporated simulation techniques into ECMO training to date.


We sent an electronic survey to ECMO coordinators at Extracorporeal Life Support Organization sites in the United States. Participants were asked about training practices and the use of simulation for ECMO training. Descriptive results were reported as the percentage of total responses for each question. Logistic regression was used to identify characteristics associated with simulation use.


Of 94 responses (62% response rate), 46% had an ECMO simulation program, whereas 26% report a program is in development. Most (61%) have been in operation for 2 to 5 years. Sixty-three percent use simulation for summative assessment, and 76% have multidisciplinary training. Access to a simulation center [odds ratio (OR) = 4.7, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.7–12.5], annual ECMO caseload of greater than 20 (OR = 2.5, 95% CI = 1.5–5.8), and having a pediatric cardiothoracic intensive care unit (OR = 2.8, 95% CI = 1.2–6.7) are each associated with increased likelihood of mannequin-based ECMO simulation. Common scenarios include pump failure (93%), oxygenator failure (90%), and circuit rupture (76%).


Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation simulation is growing but remains in its infancy. Centers with access to a simulation center, higher caseloads, and pediatric cardiothoracic intensive care units are more likely to have ECMO simulation programs. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation simulation is felt to be beneficial, and further work is needed to delineate best training practices for ECMO providers.

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