A qualitative exploration of acute care and psychological distress experiences of ECMO survivors

Ralph Tramm, Dragan Ilic, Kerry Murphy, Jayne Sheldrake, Vincent Pellegrino, Carol Hodgson

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To explore the acute care experience of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) patients. Background: ECMO is used in life-threatening scenarios of acute lung or heart failure. The patient's experience with ECMO treatment and the psychological distress are unknown. Methods: Qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews with ECMO survivors 12 months after discharge were conducted and thematically analyzed. Results: Ten participants treated with ECMO for life-threatening acute heart or lung failure were interviewed. Six themes that captured the ICU experience of ECMO patients were identified including; dealing with crisis, critical care, memory, role of significant others and existence today and tomorrow. Deconditioning was the most frequently reported experience. Patchy factual memories contrasted with detailed delirious memories and paranoid ideations. Conclusion: Patients treated with ECMO experienced deconditioning, perceived threats of serious injury or death and delusional episodes with recalls of psychological distress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-226
Number of pages7
JournalHeart and Lung
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • Critical care
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
  • Intensive care
  • Intensive care experience
  • Mental health
  • Psychological
  • Qualitative research
  • Stress
  • Stress disorder
  • Survivors

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