Circuit Tubing in Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO): Considerations

Title: Circuit Tubing in Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO): Considerations


Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) is a life-saving therapy used to support patients with respiratory and/or cardiac failure. It involves pumping blood out of the body, oxygenating it, and returning it to the patient. One crucial component of the ECMO system is the circuit tubing, which plays a vital role in delivering oxygenated blood. In this article, we will explore the importance of circuit tubing and considerations for its usage in ECMO therapy.

The Role of Circuit Tubing in ECMO

Circuit tubing serves as a conduit for blood flow during ECMO therapy. It consists of various components, including inflow and outflow cannulas, connectors, and tubing. The tubing is typically made of biocompatible materials to minimize the risk of adverse reactions.

Primary Considerations for Circuit Tubing in ECMO

1. Material Selection:

Choosing the right tubing material is crucial to ensure efficient and safe blood flow. Materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane, and silicone elastomers are commonly used. Factors such as biocompatibility, durability, flexibility, and resistance to kinking and occlusion need to be taken into account during material selection.

2. Size and length:

The size and length of circuit tubing are determined based on patient requirements and the ECMO circuit design. The diameter of the tubing affects blood flow rates, as narrower tubing may lead to increased resistance. Optimizing the size and length of tubing can help mitigate complications like hemolysis and thrombosis.

3. Priming and de-airing:

Circuit tubing needs to be properly primed and de-aired before connecting to the patient. This process involves filling the tubing with anticoagulant or saline solution, ensuring there are no air bubbles, and removing any residual air from the system. Adequate priming and de-airing are essential to prevent air embolism and maintain the functionality of the ECMO system.

4. Monitoring and maintenance:

Continuous monitoring of circuit tubing is crucial to ensure its integrity and detect any potential problems promptly. Regular inspections for kinks, deformities, or signs of wear and tear should be conducted. Additionally, scheduled replacement of tubing is essential to prevent disruptions during ECMO therapy.

5. Anticoagulation and clot formation:

ECMO circuit tubing requires anticoagulation therapy to prevent blood clot formation and maintain blood flow. The adequacy of anticoagulation must be carefully monitored to balance the risk of bleeding complications and clot formation. Careful consideration should be given to the selection and administration of anticoagulant drugs to maintain the functionality of circuit tubing.


Circuit tubing is a critical component in ECMO therapy, facilitating the safe and efficient flow of oxygenated blood. Several considerations, including material selection, size and length optimization, priming and de-airing, monitoring and maintenance, as well as anticoagulation management, need to be taken into account while utilizing circuit tubing in ECMO. By ensuring these considerations are addressed, healthcare professionals can enhance patient outcomes and guarantee seamless ECMO therapy.

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