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What is ECMO?

Last Modified: September 23, 2021

Diseases & Disorders, Heart Health

You might have heard of a medical intervention called ECMO, but many don’t know exactly what is involved in this process. As Joseph Greenlee III, MD, cardiovascular and cardiothoracic surgeon, PPG – Cardiovascular Surgery, explains, ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Essentially, it’s a treatment in which a machine takes blood outside of the body and runs it through a circuit that puts oxygen into the bloodstream and removes carbon dioxide.

This approach is used for those with critical heart complications, such as heart attack, pneumonia, lung failure or COVID-19. While ECMO won’t improve the heart or the lungs, it does give the patient extra oxygen if their lungs aren’t working well enough to get oxygen into the bloodstream, which can be a life-saving intervention.    

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