Sedatives and analgesics are frequently used in critically ill adult patients requiring mechanical ventilation in the intensive care unit, but optimal agent selection and dosing in patients supported with venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation remain poorly defined. This retrospective study evaluated whether sedative and analgesic agent selection and dosing had any impact on clinical outcomes after venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation decannulation. The primary endpoint of our study was the incidence of delirium within 48 h after venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation decannulation in patients who received an empiric ⩾50% sedation reduction of benzodiazepines (N = 22, group 2) compared to those who did not (N = 10, group 1) and those who required no sedatives within 24 h prior to venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation decannulation (N = 21, group 3). Secondary endpoints included time to extubation after decannulation, need for tracheostomy after decannulation, intensive care unit length of stay after decannulation, total hospital length of stay, and in-hospital mortality. Delirium within 48 h after decannulation was observed in 47% of all patients and did not differ between the three groups (50% vs 50% vs 43%, ). No differences were observed in the secondary endpoints; though there was a trend toward shorter duration of mechanical ventilation and intensive care unit length of stay in patients who received an empiric ⩾50% sedation reduction. Our study suggests that we may need more than a 50% reduction in sedation but prospective studies with a larger sample size are warranted to evaluate how sedative/analgesic selection and dosing affect important clinical outcomes.