Awake ECMO

Awake ECMO

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is used for treatment of severe respiratory or cardiopulmonary failure. Usually these patients are sedated and mechanically ventilated, though at lower tidal volumes to reduce lung injury and permit lung recovery.

The concept of Awake ECMO [1] is to do away with mechanical ventilation permitting the patient to eat, drink, sit up and even possibly walk. They can also participate in physiotherapy. This considered usually in those who are in bridge to transplant situation.

One study documented 6 month survival after lung transplantation as 80% in the awake ECMO group while it was 50% in the mechanical ventilation group (p=0.02) [1].


  1. Fuehner T, Kuehn C, Hadem J, Wiesner O, Gottlieb J, Tudorache I, Olsson KM, Greer M, Sommer W, Welte T, Haverich A, Hoeper MM, Warnecke G. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in awake patients as bridge to lung transplantation. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2012 Apr 1;185(7):763-8.