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Inova Children's Hospital > Inova Children's Heart Center > Conditions and Treatments > Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, also known as extracorporeal life support, is a way to support the heart and/or lungs using a machine. The machine is very similar to the heart-lung bypass machine used for open heart surgery.

ECMO is used after cardiac surgery to support the heart. When the heart is too weak or needs to recover from surgery, the machine takes on some of the work. ECMO does not cure the heart, but helps it recover or rest for a period of time. ECMO is only used after all other medical treatments have been tried.


How ECMO works

Two large tubes called cannulas are placed directly into the heart or through blood vessels to the heart. One tube drains the blood to the machine. The second tube returns the blood from the machine to the body.

The machine acts as a pump to help blood flow through the body. If needed, the machine can add oxygen to the blood.


Who cares for the patient on ECMO?

Your child will receive care from a healthcare team comprised of a critical care nurse, intensive care doctor, and an ECMO specialist who work together. The ECMO specialist is trained in managing patients while on the ECMO machine.


Inova's ECMO program expands

The ECMO program at Inova Children's Hospital has expanded to include care of newborns and children with either complex heart or lung issues. Learn more blue arrow


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