What is ECMO?

Extra-corporeal life support (ECLS), also known as Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), provides short term support for patients with cardiopulmonary failure (failing heart, lungs or both) – similar to how dialysis can take the place of failing kidneys. Most patients require ECMO for three days to several weeks, although some circumstances allow for longer use.

High ventilator settings to support a patient’s lungs can be detrimental to a patient’s health, making ECMO a better alternative for many patients. The ECMO system uses a unique process of clearing carbon dioxide out of the patient’s blood and then returning the oxygenated blood to the patient.

ECMO Program at the Ohio State Heart and Vascular Center

Ohio State has extensive experience managing a high volume of ECMO patients annually, including the most complicated patients that cannot be managed at other centers.

Ohio State is one of a handful of centers in the Midwest that can provide this treatment option to patients who are very sick and experiencing either cardiac or respiratory failure.

How patients benefit from ECMO

When patients are placed on a ventilator due to other health issues, their lungs can become damaged by high pressures and levels of oxygen required to support their needs. With the ECMO system, patients are given time for their bodies to recover, while allowing their heart or lungs to rest. This provides better patient outcomes and a better quality of life for the patient after they leave the hospital.

While most patients requiring this therapy have acute lung injury (such as severe bacterial or viral pneumonia), support can be provided to patients with acute cardiac failure, including problems such as massive myocardial infarctions, myocarditis, and even after difficulties in recovery after heart surgery. With newer technology, we have the ability to transport patients on ECMO from other hospitals. This technology allows our level 1 shock program to provide the entire range of advanced therapies to treat patients with acute cardiopulmonary decompensation.

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