Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)
How is ECMO used?
Babies and children placed on ECMO have serious, but reversible, medical conditions that impair heart or lung function, or both. While a child awaits treatment or recovers from treatment, the ECMO machine does the work for the child's heart and lungs, until these vital organs recover and can function well independently. ECMO maintains blood flow and oxygenation to the vital organs (liver, kidney, brain), so that the function of these organs are maintained while the heart or the lungs recover.
At Boston Children's Hospital, ECMO has been successfully used in the following ways:
- For babies and children with severe lung conditions. Lungs provide oxygen to the body through blood, and remove carbon dioxide from blood. Sometimes, when lungs aren't functioning because of illness or injury, the problem is so severe it cannot be helped with support from medication or respirators. ECMO may be used to support lung function in the case of severe lung conditions such as neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, congenital diaphragmatic hernia, neonatal meconium aspiration syndrome, pulmonary hypertension, severe pneumonia or respiratory failure.
- For children who go into sudden cardiac arrest. ECMO is sometimes used as a backup to revive patients whose hearts stop beating when other treatments, such as medications or a respirator, do not work.
Other indications for ECMO. As a bridge to cardiac surgery for newborns. Post-operative support For children who undergo cardiac surgery. As a bridge to heart transplantation.