What Are the Real Issues in Providing Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Support: A Survey

Shahla Siddiqui, Lovkesh Arora, Monica I. Lupei, S. Veena Satyapriya, Michael Wall, Miguel Cobas, Samuel Justice, Raquel R. Bartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: By using a novel survey our study aimed to assess the challenges ECMO and Critical Care (CC) teams face when initiating and managing patient's ECMO support. Methods: A qualitative survey-based observational study was performed of members of 2 Critical Care Medicine organizations involved in decision-making around the practice of Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO). The range of exploratory questions covered ethical principles of informed consent, autonomy and goals of care discussions, beneficence, non-maleficence (offering life-sustaining treatments in end-of-life care), and justice (insurance-related limitations of treatment). Questions also covered pragmatic practice and quality improvement areas, such as exploring whether palliative care or ethics teams were involved in such decision-making. Results: 305 members received the survey links, and a total of 61 completed surveys were received, for an overall response rate of 20% among all eligible members. Only 70% of the participants who manage ECMO patients are involved in the ECMO initiation decision process. The majority do not involve Ethics or Palliative care at the initial ECMO initiation decision step. Of the ethical and moral dilemmas reported, the majority revolved around 1. Prognostication of patients receiving VV and VA ECMO support, 2. Lack of knowledge of patient's wishes and goals, 3. Disconnect between expectations of families and outcomes and 4. Staff moral distress around when to stop ECMO in case of futility. Conclusion: Our survey highlights areas of distress and dilemma which have been stressed before in the initiation, management, and outcomes of ECMO patients, however with the increasing use of this modality of cardiopulmonary mechanical support being offered, the survey results can offer a guidance using sound ethical principles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Intensive Care Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • CPR
  • cardiac arrest
  • ethics
  • moral distress

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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