What is ECMO?

ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. ECMO is a form of therapy that can support heart and/or lung function when a patient's own heart and/or lung function is inadequate. The technology of ECMO is similar to the heart-lung bypass techniques used in cardiovascular surgery. Blood drains by gravity from the patient through a tube (catheter) placed in a large neck vein. This blood is then pumped through the membrane oxygenator that serves as an artificial lung, putting oxygen into the blood and removing carbon dioxide. The blood is warmed as it passes through a heat exchanger that maintains the blood at normal body temperature. Finally, the blood re-enters the body through a large catheter placed in an artery in the neck.

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