Sedation Requirements in Patients on Venovenous or Venoarterial Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation

Mitulkumar Patel, Diana Altshuler, Tyler C. Lewis, Cristian Merchan, Deane E. Smith, Bridget Toy, Bishoy Zakhary, John Papadopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background:There is a paucity of data evaluating optimal dosing strategies of commonly utilized opioids and sedatives for patients on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support where pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic variables of these administered agents are altered. Objective: To assess the daily dosing requirement of sedatives and analgesics for patients on venovenous (VV) and venoarterial (VA) ECMO after the initial ECMO cannulation period. Methods: We performed a retrospective, observational study of adult patients receiving sedation and analgesia while receiving ECMO support for at least 24 hours. Patients cannulated at an outside hospital more than 24 hours before transfer, those with a history of intravenous drug use or acute alcohol withdrawal, or those who died within 48 hours of ECMO initiation were excluded. Results: We evaluated 26 patients on ECMO, including 13 on VV and 13 on VA ECMO. The median dose of fentanyl was 140 µg/h, with the VV group requiring a higher dose compared with the VA group (167 vs 106 µg/h, P < 0.001). The median doses of dexmedetomidine and propofol were 0.7 µg/kg/h and 26 µg/kg/min, respectively, with no significant differences between groups (P = 0.38 and P = 0.24, respectively). The median daily doses of fentanyl, dexmedetomidine, and propofol did not significantly increase throughout the time on ECMO support. Conclusions and Relevance: We found that the overall opioid daily dosing requirements were lower than previously reported in the literature. Additionally, light sedation strategies with a target RASS of −1 to 0 are feasible in this patient population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-130
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Pharmacotherapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • cardiothoracic ICU
  • dexmedetomidine
  • ECMO
  • fentanyl
  • medical ICU
  • propofol
  • sedation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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