Determinants of drug absorption in different ECMO circuits

Intensive Care Med. 2010 Dec;36(12):2109-16. doi: 10.1007/s00134-010-2041-z. Epub 2010 Sep 23.


Purpose: The aim of this in vitro study was to evaluate potential determinants of drug loss in different ECMO circuits.

Methods: Midazolam, morphine, fentanyl, paracetamol, cefazolin, meropenem and vancomycin were injected into three neonatal roller pump, two paediatric roller pump and two clinically used neonatal roller pump circuits, all with a silicone membrane, and two neonatal centrifugal pump circuits with polypropylene hollow-fibre membranes. Serial blood samples were taken from a post-oxygenator site. Drug recovery was calculated as the ratio between the determined and the theoretical maximum concentration. The latter was obtained by dividing dose by theoretical circuit volume.

Results: Average drug recoveries at 180 min in three neonatal silicone membrane roller pump circuits were midazolam 0.62%, morphine 23.9%, fentanyl 0.35%, paracetamol 34.0%, cefazolin 84.3%, meropenem 82.9% and vancomycin 67.8%. There was a significant correlation between the lipophilicity of the drug expressed as log P and the extent of drug absorption, p < 0.001. The recovery of midazolam and fentanyl in centrifugal pump circuits with hollow-fibre membrane oxygenator was significantly higher compared to neonatal roller pump circuits with silicone membranes: midazolam 63.4 versus 0.62%, fentanyl 33.8 versus 0.35%, p < 0.001. Oxygenator size and used circuits do not significantly affect drug losses.

Conclusions: Significant absorption of drugs occurs in the ECMO circuit, correlating with increased lipophilicity of the drug. Centrifugal pump circuits with hollow-fibre membrane oxygenators show less absorption for all drugs, most pronounced for lipophilic drugs. These results suggest that pharmacokinetics and hence optimal doses of these drugs may be altered during ECMO.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation*
  • Pharmacokinetics*