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An extracorporeal membrane osygenation ECMO machine.

Most patients who need VV-ECMO require the ongoing assistance of a ventilator. To prepare the body for VV-ECMO, a surgeon places plastic tubes called cannulae into two large veins for blood exchange. Patients are given pain medications to keep them comfortable during this procedure. Once the tubes are in place, they are not painful. When the VV-ECMO machine is running, the non-oxygenated blood being removed from the body is dark red in color. After the blood is oxygenated by the machine, its color during its return to the body is bright red.

After VV-ECMO begins, most patients remain sedated. However, with time, some patients may no longer require sedation to be comfortable, at which point they may wake up and be able to interact with people. In some cases, patients may be able to participate in exercises to build their strength while on the VV-ECMO machine.