Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

What is extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)?

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a condensed heart-lung machine that temporarily supports the heart and lungs when one or both are not functioning due to disease. ECMO is used in the intensive care unit for seriously ill patients who would not otherwise survive, but whose illness may be reversible. A patient with failure of the heart, lungs or both, may be a candidate for this type of mechanical assistance.

What to expect from extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

First, the patient is given an anticoagulant (blood thinner) to ensure the blood moves easily from the body through a tube and into the ECMO machine. The machine removes carbon dioxide while also adding oxygen to the blood. The machine can return healthy blood into the patient as a substitute for the heart pump and or lung. This allows the patient to rest until these functions are corrected and the organs heal. ECMO may be used for a few days at a time or several weeks.

At Lankenau Heart Institute we are skilled at placing life-saving, mechanical assist devices such as ECMO. Our survival rates for this treatment are higher than the national average.