During the placement of the cannula, your child will be given medicine to make them sleepy and for pain. Once on ECMO, children may be able to wake up and interact with you. If the child becomes restless or does not tolerate being awake, more medicine for pain and relaxation may be given.
Medicines used to support the heart and lungs before ECMO will be slowly turned down and removed as tolerated. The ventilator that has been breathing for your child will also be turned down to allow the lungs to rest.
An ECMO specialist (a nurse or a respiratory therapist) will continuously monitor the ECMO machine and your child while on ECMO. X-rays of the lungs will be done daily to monitor the cannulas and to determine if the lungs are improving. Blood taken from the ECMO machine will be sent to the lab several times a day to help care for your child.
As the heart and lungs improve, the ECMO support will be decreased. This will allow the heart and lungs to do more of the work. Your child will come off ECMO when the heart and lungs have recovered enough to function without the support of the ECMO machine. This can take a few days to several weeks depending on each child’s condition.