Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation | ECMO | ECLS

Definition of Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) and ECLS

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What is ECMO?

What is ECMO?

ECMOstands for ExtraCorporeal Membrane Oxygenation. You may also hear it called ECLS, which stands for ExtraCorporeal Life Support. It is a treatment that uses a man-made heart and lung to support the body when a person's own organs are too sick to do the job. ECMO may support the body for a long period of time (days to weeks) to allow the heart and/or lungs time to rest. Although ECMO itself will not cure your loved one, it gives him or her the time needed to heal. ECMO may be an option only after the care team has tried all other treatments such as a breathing machine (called a ventilator or "vent"), medicines to support the heart and lungs, and/or special gases to relax the blood vessels between the heart and the lungs.

Once your loved one's heart and/or lungs have healed enough to support the needs of their body, he or she will be taken off of ECMO. On the other hand, if the doctors realize that ECMO is not helping to get better, or if continuing to use ECMO might hurt a patient, ECMO support will be removed.


The ELSO Education and Logistics Committee