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People with life-threatening heart or lung conditions may benefit from extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) therapy, sometimes called extracorporeal life support (ECLS). Penn Medicine performs more ECMO procedures than any institution on the East Coast. Here, you’ll find:
ECMO is similar to a heart-lung machine used in cardiac surgery, but adapted to be more compatible with living tissue. It can be used for days or weeks and in settings other than an operating room. ECMO therapy takes over the functions of the heart and lungs to promote rest and recovery when other treatments aren’t effective. As the patient’s condition improves, the settings can be reduced to stimulate the heart and lungs to work harder.
Cardiothoracic surgeons place one or more tubes (cannula) into an artery or vein in the chest, neck or groin then connect them to the external ECMO machine. The ECMO pulls the non-oxygenated blood into an artificial lung, where carbon dioxide is removed and oxygen is added. It then warms the blood and pumps it back into the body for circulation. While ECMO is in use: