WHAT is ECMO?
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a temporary support system for patients with severe respiratory or cardiac failure, a measure used to help the heart and lungs rest and heal. Developed as an offshoot of cardiopulmonary bypass and the membrane oxygenator, ECMO can be used in patients of all ages (newborn to adult). ECMO is a support, not a treatment, and it’s only beneficial in patients whose primary disease is reversible. But it gives a patient’s heart and lungs an opportunity to heal that wouldn’t otherwise be available.
How does it work?
When do doctors choose ECMO?
ECMO is an advanced, life-saving technology that’s the last treatment option when all other options have run out. It’s used when conventional therapies have failed to support the function of the heart and lungs adequately and when there’s a very high risk of death. It may be used to bridge patients with heart failure as they await heart transplantation or placement of a ventricular assist device, a mechanical pump that’s used to increase the amount of blood that flows through the body. Here are some other times when ECMO may be used:
- When patients are recovering from heart failure, or lung failure or heart surgery.
- As a bridge option to further treatment, when doctors want to assess the state of other organs such as the kidneys or brain before performing heart or lung surgery.
- When support is needed during high-risk procedures in the cardiac catheterization lab.
- While a patient is awaiting an operation for a heart assist device, such as left ventricular assist device (LVAD).
- When patients are awaiting lung transplant. In this case, ECMO helps keep tissues well oxygenated, which makes the patient a better candidate for transplant.
Understanding the Procedure
The Most Advanced Care - Right Here in Chattanooga
ECMO isn’t a miracle treatment, and it’s only used in the very sickest of patients. But it’s just one more option for recovery that’s available to patients of University Surgical Associates in emergent situations. If you’d like to read about an amazing story of survival and recovery that included ECMO treatment, please click here >>>. Paige Davis, mom of Chase, tells his harrowing story, his fight for life, and the many people who supported him in his recovery along the way.
You have a choice when it comes to surgical care. For more information or to schedule an appointment for consultation, call (423) 267-0466.