​​Extra-Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

Extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, is a machine that provides oxygen to the blood outside of the body and supports the heart and/or lungs when all other treatment options have failed.

The UPMC Cardiothoracic Surgery Department leads a collaborative effort with critical care specialist to provide a patient-centered, disease-specific model for the delivery of this potentially life-saving therapy.

ECMO is used for patients in severe but reversible lung and/or heart failure.

Lung conditions that may require ECMO include:

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • Pneumonia
  • Trauma, including direct injury to the lungs
  • Acute episodes of asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Acute and chronic pulmonary thromboembolic disease

Heart conditions that require ECMO include:

  • Myocardial infarction
  • Cardiogenic shock
  • Trauma, including direct injury to the heart
  • Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
  • Myocarditis
  • Post cardiotomy – failure to separate from CPB
  • Acute and chronic pulmonary thromboembolic disease

How Does ECMO Work

There are two different types of ECMO treatment. Veno-venous ECMO supports the lungs while Veno-arterial ECMO supports both the heart and the lungs. ECMO relieves stress from the heart and/or lungs allowing them time to rest and recover.

ECMO can be used for a few days, weeks, or ever months in some cases.

Volumes and Outcomes

UPMC is one of the largest centers in the world for both respiratory and cardiac failure with over 700 ECMO cases since 2002. Our outstanding team and outcomes have established us as a ECMO Center of Excellence.

Our Team

At the UPMC Cardiothoracic Transplantation Program, we use a multidisciplinary team-based approach to your care.

We provide clinical expertise in:

  • Critical Care Medicine
  • Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Thoracic Surgery

Our comprehensive care team includes:

  • Critical care nurses
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Critical care-trained pharmacists
  • Critical care physical and occupational therapists
  • Nutritionists
  • Speech therapists
  • Social workers

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