Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Program

Additional Information for Parents

The ECMO program provides various services:

Bed bath: Your child will be given a gentle bed bath as often as needed. You may help bathe your child if they are stable enough.

Feeding: While on ECMO, your child will receive all the necessary nutrition, including vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, through the IV catheter or a feeding tube.

Lab work: The nurses will collect blood samples from the catheters that have already been put into place in your child.

Lung percussion: Many times it will be necessary for the Respiratory Therapist (RT) to gently pound on your child’s chest with a percussor to loosen the thick secretions. This will help your child’s lungs to heal.

Medications: Your child’s doctor will use many types of medications, including pain medications, to make sure that everything possible is being done to help your child be comfortable and heal while they are on the ECMO machine.

Positioning the body: The way your child’s body is positioned will help the lungs to heal better. The doctors, ECMO specialists and nurses will decide which position is best for your child.

Special procedures: Sometimes children on ECMO need special procedures in other departments of the hospital.

Ultrasound: Babies may need to receive ultrasounds of their head to make sure there is not any bleeding inside the brain. Your child may also need an ultrasound or echocardiogram of the heart while on the ECMO machine.

Weighing: Your child’s weight will determine what medications will be given and if they are getting too much fluid or not enough. You child may be weighed every night.

X-ray: Your child will have an X-ray every day that they are on the ECMO machine to make sure that the cannulas stay in the proper position and to allow the doctors to see how the lungs look.

What are the things your family can do?

Decorate the room: It is important that siblings and other family members feel like they are doing something to help the child on ECMO. They can do this by decorating the child’s room with pictures and drawings and adding other personal touches.

Include the Child Life Specialist: The family can receive help from the Child Life Specialist. A Child Life Specialist is a person who helps the entire family with things they can do while the child is in the hospital. These specialists can provide toys, mobiles, music boxes, etc. for the child to use while they are sick, and they can also provide support for the siblings and the rest of the family when they come to visit.

Provide a healing environment: We want you to talk quietly to your child and touch them gently when the time is right. Hearing your voice and feeling your touch will comfort your child and make them feel better. You can bring the child’s favorite stuffed animal or toy to the hospital. You can read or sing to your child and even make tapes of your family’s voices or music to play when you are not able to be with your child. Sometimes, however, your child might get too excited when you talk to or touch them. If that happens, your doctor or nurse may ask that all visitors just sit quietly at the bedside. We know that you want what is best for your child, so sometimes just being there is the best way to help them heal and get better.

When is the right time to come off ECMO?

The doctors will decide when the time is right for your child to come off the ECMO machine. One reason a child is removed from the ECMO machine is when they have made improvements and no longer require this type of support for their body. The other reason a child is removed from ECMO is because the condition continues to get worse and can no longer be treated with machines or medications. At this point, the doctors will talk with you and your family about all the specific information and all necessary decisions will be made together.