The Children’s Hospital of Georgia has the region’s only Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, or ECMO, system to keep the hearts and lungs of critically ill children working during healing.

ECMO is cardiopulmonary bypass for infants and children with respiratory and cardiac failure. It provides long-term respiratory and cardiac support to children with reversible lung and heart problems that are not responding to conventional treatment.

Similar to the heart-lung bypass machine used for open heart surgery, ECMO helps stabilize the patient’s lungs and heart while the underlying disease is managed. The surgeon may place a patient on ECMO in the operating room or in the intensive care unit. The ECMO tubes are surgically removed at the end of the treatment.
ECMO is most commonly employed in the following settings:

  • Meconium aspiration
  • Persistent pulmonary hypertension
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Cardiac problems after heart surgery

The ECMO program involves a multidisciplinary team including surgeons, neonatologists, pediatric perfusionists, respiratory therapists and nurses. Pediatric perfusionists are experts specifically trained in the field of pediatric cardiovascular circulation; they customize the extracorporeal circulation equipment to the unique needs of each child. This level of care provides optimal circulatory and respiratory support during surgery to help your child withstand the most complex cardiac repair. The entire ECMO team provides around-the-clock support while the patient is on the ECMO circuit.