Flexible tubes called cannulas are placed in the large arteries or veins of the patient’s neck, groin or chest. After that, the cannulas are connected to the ECMO machine. Blood is then pumped out of the body and passed through the ECMO machine, which adds oxygen and removes carbon dioxide from the blood. The oxygenated blood is then pumped back into the patient’s body through the cannulas. The ECMO machine also warms or cools the blood depending on the patient’s needs. While on ECMO, the patient may stay on a breathing machine (ventilator), but the settings on the machine are usually turned down to lower levels.
We may remove the ventilator to allow the patient to exercise on a stationary bike, sit in the cardiac chair, stretch or move around the unit with the help of the medical and physical therapy teams.
The plan of care is specific to the disease and the course of ECMO depends on each patient’s needs.
For assistance in facilitating transfers to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, contact the UCLA Health Transfer Center at 310-825-0909