ECMO Therapy: Why Choose Penn Medicine

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:

  • Highly trained team: Our ECMO team includes prominent leaders in the field with national and international expertise and reputation. We undergo rigorous training to perform this advanced form of heart and lung support so we can define the best treatment option for you.
  • Unsurpassed experience: Our specialists use ECMO to successfully bridge patients awaiting lung transplantation, heart transplantation or a ventricular assist device.
  • Innovation: We are the only hospital in the area with a mobile ECMO program to rescue patients at other hospitals when they are too sick to travel.
  • Teamwork: Our ECMO specialists are cardiothoracic surgeons who work closely with ICU physicians and nurses, perfusionists, respiratory therapists, dietitians, social workers and physical therapists to ensure patient safety.
  • ELSO CoE Gold BadgeCenter of Excellence Award: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania — Penn Presbyterian was awarded the Gold Level Center of Excellence by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO). The ELSO Awards’ goal is to recognize and honor Extracorporeal Life Support programs who reach the highest level of performance, innovation, satisfaction and quality.

What Is ECMO Therapy?

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.

How ECMO Works

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:

  • The heart continues to beat but won’t be working as hard since the ECMO is doing most of the pumping. 
  • The patient has a breathing tube attached to a ventilator that removes secretions and prevents the lungs from collapsing. In some cases our team can avoid the use of a ventilator and decrease the chance of a complication.
  • The patient is monitored daily to ensure the machine is working properly and to assess the level of recovery. 

You Might Also Be Interested In...

Share This Page: