Sedation and Mobilization During Venovenous Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for Acute Respiratory Failure: An International Survey

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To characterize sedation, analgesia, delirium, and mobilization practices in patients supported with venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for severe acute respiratory failure.


Cross-sectional electronic survey administered January 2016 to March 2016.


Three-hundred ninety-four extracorporeal membrane oxygenation centers registered with the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization.


Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation medical directors and program coordinators.



Measurements and Main Results:

We analyzed responses from 209 respondents (53%), mostly from academic centers (63%); 41% respondents provide venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation to adults exclusively. Following venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation initiation, 97% respondents administer sedative/analgesic infusions, and the sedation target was “sedated” or “very sedated” for 59%, “calm and cooperative” for 25%, and “unarousable” for 16%. Use of daily sedation interruption and a sedation/analgesia protocol was reported by 51% and 39%, respectively. Midazolam (48%) and propofol (19%) were reported as the most frequently used sedatives; fentanyl (44%) and morphine (20%) the most frequent opioids. Use of a delirium scale was reported by 55% respondents. Physical therapy was reported by 84% respondents, with 41% initiating it within 72 hours after cannulation. Mobilization goals varied from range of motion exercises (81%) to ambulation (22%). The most frequently perceived barriers to mobilization were hemodynamic instability, hypoxemia, and dependency on venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support.


The majority of respondents reported targeting moderate to deep sedation following cannulation, with the use of sedative and opioid infusions. There is considerable variability surrounding early physical therapy and mobilization goals for patients with acute respiratory failure supported by venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

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