ECMO – also referred to as extracorporeal life support (ECLS) – is a type of treatment used for patients with life-threatening heart/lung problems. “Extracorporeal” means outside of one’s body; “membrane” is a type of artificial lung; and “oxygenation” is the process of getting oxygen into the blood.
When a patient’s lungs are injured or failing, they cannot provide oxygen to the body or move harmful substances such as carbon dioxide out of the body. In other cases, a patient’s heart is not pumping enough and it struggles to move blood and oxygen through the body; some patients experience both heart and lung complications that hinder blood oxygenation. When this occurs, the ECMO machine is used as an artificial heart/lung pump to pump oxygenated blood to the body. This allows the patient’s sick lungs/heart the time and ability to recover and heal.
An ECMO device is a life-saving but temporary therapy (for a few days or weeks). It supports heart or lung function during cardiopulmonary failure, and is only effective with patients who have reversible heart or lung disease or those who can transition to long-term device or transplantation.
For assistance in facilitating transfers to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, contact the UCLA Health Transfer Center at 310-825-0909