Lifesaving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) provides life support for patients with respiratory (lung) or heart failure. It’s an alternative to a ventilator for the most critically ill and injured patients, and is only available at hospitals with the highest levels of intensive care. The ECMO program at Emory Healthcare is the premier program in the Southeastern United States.

Ventilators use high pressure and oxygen levels, which can harm your lungs. ECMO offers the much-needed time for your body to rest and heal.

How ECMO works

Every cell in your body relies on oxygen. In heart or respiratory failure — or other conditions — your body may not be able to keep your blood oxygen levels steady. Without enough oxygen, your organs can fail. ECMO is a lifesaving machine that works as both your heart and your lungs. It keeps your blood temperature and oxygen levels steady when your body cannot.

ECMO pumps your blood into a machine that adds oxygen, removes carbon dioxide, and warms your blood to the right temperature. ECMO then pumps your blood back into your body to circulate just like it would normally.

ECMO gives your heart and lungs time to heal until they can work again on their own. ECMO is often used when patients are waiting for a heart transplant or are battling severe pneumonia.

Our ECMO team

Experts from different specialties join together to help patients who need ECMO. Emory Univeristy Hosptial intensivists direct a team of advanced practitioners, nurses, perfusionists, and respriatory therapists to guide care for patients who have complex critical illnesses.

Highly trained respiratory therapists operate our ECMO system. Each therapist has over 15 hours of ECMO classroom education, 24 hours of observing bedside care given by a perfusionist, and a rigorous written and practical exam before being able to provide ECMO care.

Emory ECMO Center Leadership Team

James M. Blum, MD
Medical Director, Emory ECMO Center

Bruce Bray, RRT, RCP
Division Director
Departments of Respiratory Care, ECMO Service, EKG, Neurophysiology, Pulmonary and Blood Gas Laboratories

Craig Kalin, CCP, LP
Perfusionist and ECMO Center Coordinator, Emory ECMO Center

Duc Nguyen, MD
Surgical Director, Emory ECMO Center

Christopher Paciullo, PharmD, FCCM
Pharmacy Lead, Emory ECMO Center

How to transfer a patient

Emory can transport patients globally, via air or land, and will handle all the travel arrangements. We typically arrive within four hours of the transfer request. We even have the ability to provide remote cannulation services in select situations. Call the Emory Transfer service at 404-686-8334 and request transfer for ECMO.

Did you know?

Emory has its own ambulance just for ECMO patients? Learn More

How Can We Help You Today?

Need help? We will be delighted to assist you today, so please call us at 404-778-7777. We look forward to hearing from you.

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