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Anaesth Intensive Care. 2012 Jul;40(4):648-55.

Increased sedation requirements in patients receiving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for respiratory and cardiorespiratory failure.

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Critical Care Research Group, Adult Intensive Care Unit, The Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.


Critically ill patients receiving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) are often noted to have increased sedation requirements. However, data related to sedation in this complex group of patients is limited. The aim of our study was to characterise the sedation requirements in adult patients receiving ECMO for cardiorespiratory failure. A retrospective chart review was performed to collect sedation data for 30 consecutive patients who received venovenous or venoarterial ECMO between April 2009 and March 2011. To test for a difference in doses over time we used a regression model. The dose of midazolam received on ECMO support increased by an average of 18 mg per day (95% confidence interval 8, 29 mg, P=0.001), while the dose of morphine increased by 29 mg per day (95% confidence interval 4, 53 mg, P=0.021) The venovenous group received a daily midazolam dose that was 157 mg higher than the venoarterial group (95% confidence interval 53, 261 mg, P=0.005). We did not observe any significant increase in fentanyl doses over time (95% confidence interval 1269, 4337 µg, P=0.94). There is a significant increase in dose requirement for morphine and midazolam during ECMO. Patients on venovenous ECMO received higher sedative doses as compared to patients on venoarterial ECMO. Future research should focus on mechanisms behind these changes and also identify drugs that are most suitable for sedation during ECMO.

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