Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is used to treat people with heart and lung failure, by using a machine to replace some functions of the patient’s heart or lungs or both simultaneously. ECMO provides heart and lung support for a longer duration like days or weeks, unlike the heart-lung bypass machine which is used for a short period.

ECMO enables blood to bypass the heart and lungs so that they can rest and heal. It is suitable for patients of all ages from infants to adults.

Few of the heart conditions where ECMO is useful include:

  • ARDS(Lung Failure)
  • Inflammation of the heart muscle or myocarditis
  • Heart muscle disease
  • Cardiogenic shock
  • Massive Heart attack
  • Hypothermia or low body temperature
  • Sepsis

ECMO is also found to be useful for care in case of very severe COVID-19 and other infections resulting in lungs failure.

ECMO is of two types, VA ECMO and VV ECMO. VA ECMO is used when there are complications with both lungs and heart. It is instituted by connecting to both a vein and an artery. VV ECMO is used when the problem is only in the lungs and heart is working normally. It is instituted by connecting to one or more veins.

ECMO therapy is generally used only when all the other standard treatments do not succeed in resolving the issues of the heart or lungs.