Safety and Feasibility of a Protocolized Daily Assessment of Readiness for Liberation From Venovenous Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation


      Decannulation from venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) at the earliest and safest possible time may improve outcomes and reduce cost. Yet, no prospective studies have compared weaning strategies for liberation from ECMO.

      Research Question

      Is a protocolized daily assessment of readiness to liberate from venovenous ECMO safe and feasible?

      Study Design and Methods

      We conducted a prospective, single-arm safety and feasibility study of a protocol for daily assessment of readiness to liberate from venovenous ECMO among consecutive adult patients receiving venovenous ECMO across four ICUs at a single center between June 20, 2020, and November 24, 2020. The ECMO-free protocol included three phases: (1) the safety screening, (2) non-ECMO Fio2 titration, and (3) the ECMO-free trial. Enrollment, interventions, and data collection were performed prospectively by trained study staff.


      Twenty-six patients received the ECMO-free protocol on 385 patient-days. The safety screening was passed during a total of 59 ECMO-free daily assessments (15.3%) among 20 patients. Every passed safety screening proceeded to an ECMO-free trial. Twenty-eight passed ECMO-free trials (47.5%) occurred among 16 patients (61.5%). No missed safety screenings, protocol deviations, or adverse events occurred. Of the 16 patients who passed an ECMO-free trial, 14 patients (87.5%) were decannulated. Among decannulated patients, 12 patients (85.7%) were decannulated on the same day as a passed ECMO-free trial, 6 patients (42.9%) were decannulated on the first day that they passed an ECMO-free trial, and 6 patients (42.9%) passed an ECMO-free trial at least twice consecutively before decannulation. The median time from first passed ECMO-free trial to decannulation was 2 days (interquartile range, 0-3 days).


      The ECMO-free protocol is feasible and may identify patients for decannulation earlier than gradual approaches to weaning.

      Graphical Abstract

      Key Words


      ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), IQR (interquartile range)
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