ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a procedure in which a machine outside of the body takes over the work of your child’s heart and/or lungs to allow them to rest and heal.
The machine is connected to the patient’s body by a catheter (tube) inserted during surgery through the arteries and veins of the neck area in infants, the groin area in children, or the chest area following cardiac surgery. Your child will be given medications during surgery to prevent pain and movement.
Your child will also have a breathing tube inserted through his nose or mouth that is connected to a ventilator, which is needed to prevent his lungs from collapsing while they heal.
What conditions can be treated using ECMO?
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension of newborn
- Meconium aspiration syndrome
- Congenital diaphragmatic hernia
- Air leak syndrome
- Acute respiratory failure
- Post trauma
- Severe asthma attacks that don’t respond to other therapies
- Aspiration syndromes from a foreign body, hydrocarbons or water from near drowning
- Failure to wean from cardiopulmonary bypass following heart surgery
- Extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation (ECPR)
Providing ECMO Access to Patients Who Need It Most
Based in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s, our team provides life support to newborns when other therapies have failed.Learn more
Pediatric Respiratory ECMO
Our team treats children 28 days old to 18 years old who are suffering from acute respiratory failure.Learn more
We treat patients whose hearts cannot pump enough blood to keep them alive, either before heart surgery or after bypass surgery.Learn more
At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, we have one of the few pediatric ECMO centers in the Southeast. We’ve been recognized as an ECMO Center of Excellence by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO)—the world’s premier ECMO organization—since 2007. This award is only for select centers that provide exceptional ECMO care, as evidenced by large numbers of children receiving ECMO (more than 1,100 patients since 1991), extensive training programs, constant review and use of teamwork to produce excellent outcomes.
Our multidisciplinary team of pediatric ECMO specialists, cardiac intensive care physicians, nurses and specially trained respiratory therapists provides customized ECMO care for every patient the team treats. Additionally, we perform ongoing research to improve the quality of care delivered to patients requiring ECMO and, ultimately, to reduce the need for ECMO.
Having a child who is critically ill and requires ECMO support can be overwhelming. The following FAQs are intended to help you better understand what to expect from ECMO procedures. If you have any further questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your child’s ECMO team at Children’s. We’re here to help.