How to Turn It Down: The Evidence and Opinions Behind Adult Venoarterial Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Weaning

ASAIO J. 2021 Sep 1;67(9):964-972

Adequate and durable recovery in patients supported with venoarterial (VA) extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) can be challenging to predict. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation weaning is the process by which the ECMO flows are decreased to assess if a patient is ready for decannulation. The optimal strategies for deciding who to wean and how to wean VA ECMO remain undefined. A retrospective literature review was performed to understand the evidence supporting current practices in ECMO weaning and in particular patient selection and methods. Most published work and expert opinions agree that once the underlying process has resolved, the minimum required physiologic parameters for weaning from ECMO include: hemodynamic stability and cardiac pulsatility, adequate lung function to support oxygenation and ventilation, and evidence of recovered end organ function. Echocardiography is universally used to assess cardiac function during the weaning process. Currently, there is no consensus regarding who is eligible to wean or how to wean ECMO in adults. We have reviewed the literature to summarize the evidence and expert opinions behind VA ECMO weaning, and give an example of the protocol used at our center. We believe this protocol optimizes patient selection for weaning and helps to predict successful decannulation.