Preventing a Challenging Side Effect of Pediatric ECMO
A highly-specialized life-support tool. A modified, long-term heart-lung bypass machine. A hopeful last chance.
These all describe ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation). Simply put, physicians turn to ECMO when all
other standard treatments have failed. For many pediatric patients, ECMO leads to multi-organ complications.
With focused attention on prevention, care teams can greatly reduce ECMO’s negative effects.
The Benefits of ECMO
For patients with life-threatening heart and/or lung problems, ECMO treatment pumps the patient’s blood through
an external device, exchanges its carbon dioxide for oxygen, and returns it to the body. Using ECMO gives the
patient and care team time — sometimes weeks — for the body to rest and for the team to address critical
underlying illnesses one by one.
According to The Extracorporeal Life Support Organization, nearly 60,000 children have received ECMO
This includes neonates and patients with acute, severe, reversible respiratory failure who are unresponsive to
optimal ventilator and pharmacologic management, but who are expected to recover with 10-14 days of ECMO
treatment. For them, ECMO provides temporary cardiorespiratory support,2 but often leads to an
increased risk for skin complications and pressure injuries (PIs). These are largely caused by immobility, the
patient’s skin immaturity, and the way their blood is shunted away from the skin to preserve major organs.
The Challenge of Pediatric PIs
Pressure injuries happen as a result of intense and/or prolonged pressure or pressure in combination with
shear.3 Data shows that critically ill pediatric patients are 0.29%-7.3% more likely to develop a
PI.4 PI effects on children can include:
- Compromised skin protection
- Altered thermoregulation
- Metabolism deficiencies
- Compromised immunity decrease sensation
- Increased risk for infection
- Increased risk for psychosocial effects related to scarring
|Did You Know?
|Data shows that critically ill pediatric patients are 0.29%-7.3% more likely to develop a
Promoting Skin Integrity
Care teams can help prevent PIs by focusing on reducing pressure and promoting skin health. This includes,
but is not limited to:
- Repositioning the patient at least every two hours
- Redistributing pressure and managing the microclimate with a low air loss mattress
- Providing nutritional support
- Maintaining proper hydration
- Conducting routine skin assessments: after admission, during every risk assessment, periodically as
indicated by the individual’s degree of PI, and prior to discharge
The life-saving benefits of ECMO are too great to be undermined by preventable PIs and skin complications.
focused attention in the right areas, caregivers can help their pediatric patients not just endure ECMO
treatment but thrive during it.
Want more info?
The Sizewise Clinical Support Team is available to answer your questions or provide additional training.
Call 800-814-9389 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.