Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) is a form of life support that is used when patients are critically ill with heart and/or lung failure. ECMO is a life-saving support that places the child on “bypass” with a machine that helps heart and lung function.

ECMO can be used to help a child oxygenate and ventilate (breathe) as well as pump blood like a heart when they are very ill. This allows the child to rest while the bypass machine works for them. When the child improves enough to not need ECMO support, the bypass machine is removed.

When is ECMO Used?

Some children are placed on ECMO after birth due to problems with their heart or lungs. Other children need ECMO when their heart or lungs fail for other reasons, like pneumonia, the flu, or after surgery. There are a lot of different reasons why children need ECMO for support, and even healthy children who later become ill may need ECMO.

Conditions that sometimes require ECMO support

  • Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn
  • Congenital diaphragmatic hernia
  • Meconium aspiration syndrome
  • Pneumonia
  • Acute respiratory failure
  • Sepsis
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Asthma attacks
  • Myocarditis
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Failure to wean from bypass after cardiac surgery

Our ECMO Team

There is a very large team of doctors and nurses who are specially trained to run ECMO and watch over the child on ECMO all day and night. This team includes intensive care unit (ICU) doctors, neonatologists (doctors who specialize in newborns), surgeons, heart doctors (cardiologists), kidney doctors (nephrologists), pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and many more.

We are proud to say that our Pediatric ECMO program is a very strong and diverse team of medical professionals dedicated to offering the best quality of care for patients on ECMO. Our team is highly trained and passes a rigorous annual certification. Additional skills tests and simulation classes are also conducted throughout the year.