Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)
Our ECMO team provides 24/7, specialized care for patients who have severe heart or lung conditions.
What Is ECMO?
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a supportive device that takes over the work of the heart and lungs to pump oxygenated blood to the body. Our specialists use ECMO as a temporary treatment for patients with heart, lung or heart and lung (cardiopulmonary) failure. It provides oxygen and blood flow to the body until the heart or lungs recover from an underlying illness.
Patients who have severe heart or lung disease may need ECMO. Alternatively, a patient may be placed on ECMO while waiting for a long-term support device or heart or lung transplant. ECMO is more generally referred to as extracorporeal life support (ECLS).
UCLA Health excellence in ECMO
The experts in our multidisciplinary program are leaders in ECMO development and implementation. We provide around-the-clock ECMO care, and each patient has a dedicated team at their bedside.
Highlights of our ECMO program include:
Exceptional outcomes: Our adult ECMO survival rates often exceed national benchmarks. We ensure that ECMO is delivered in a timely manner. This efficiency improves the chance that patients are successfully weaned from ECMO or have operations with fewer complications.
ECMO care coordinators: Our ECMO care coordinators are all perfusionists. Perfusionists specialize in operating heart-lung bypass machines. These care coordinators follow each patient’s journey until discharge. Using perfusionists as care coordinators provides a unique level of expertise to patients.
Expert ECMO team: The ECMO team involves multiple specialists, such as intensive care unit (ICU) physicians, cardiologists, pulmonologists, nurses, respiratory therapists, perfusionists and certified critical care transport nurses for in-hospital transport. These team members all have training and vast experience to care for patients with the most complex needs.
Dedicated cardiothoracic intensive care unit (CTICU): Our CTICU is equipped with advanced ECMO machines designed to minimize any potential complications. Highly trained nurses and perfusionists staff our CTICU 24/7. They are experts in caring for patients who need heart and lung support.
Mobile adult and pediatric transport services: Our transport teams safely provide ECMO to patients at outside facilities or who are already on ECMO at another center. The teams include specially trained surgeons, registered nurses, respiratory therapists, perfusionists and EMTs. UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital has its own dedicated neonatal/pediatric transport team. ECMO transport services are available 24/7.
Conditions we treat
Our team uses ECMO to support patients with a range of heart and lung conditions. Patients may be candidates for ECMO if they have:
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS): A life-threatening condition in which fluid builds up in the tiny air sacs in the lungs (alveoli)
Acute or chronic heart failure: Condition that occurs when the heart doesn’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): A group of lung diseases that cause obstructed air flow and difficulty breathing
COVID-19: A respiratory disease that can cause severe lung damage and heart inflammation
Myocarditis: Inflammation in the heart muscle (myocardium) that weakens the heart
Pneumonia: An infection that inflames the alveoli, causing coughing, fever and difficulty breathing
Pulmonary embolism: A blood clot that travels to one or more arteries in the lungs, suddenly blocking blood flow
Pulmonary fibrosis: A condition that leads to scarring and thickening of lung tissue, causing shortness of breath
Coordinated ECMO care requires the expertise of multiple specialists. Our ECMO team includes physicians, physician assistants, nurses, respiratory therapists and perfusionists with special training and expertise in critical care.