What can I expect my loved one to look like on ECMO?
At the time of ECMO initiation, patients are critically ill and in the intensive care unit. In addition to the cannulas in the neck, groin or chest, the patient will be attached to a breathing tube through their nose or mouth. There will be a ventilator next to their bed. They will have additional intravenous (IV) lines, through which the patient will receive pain and sedation medications, as well as other necessary medications and blood transfusions. An arterial line will also be in place to monitor blood pressure. Patients will also have a tube in their nose or mouth that runs to their stomachs and a catheter in their bladder to drain urine. We will monitor heart rhythm and rate with electrodes attached to the skin. Other monitoring devices also will be attached to monitor oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Patients often appear puffy or swollen when on ECMO. This is because of edema (swelling caused by excess water leaking into their tissues) and will resolve upon recovery. They also often receive large amounts of IV fluid and blood products while on ECMO.
Can family stay with patients while on ECMO?
The Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center has an open visitation policy. Family members may stay with the patient 24 hours a day during their stay. Visitors may be asked to leave during emergencies and sterile procedures.