What is ECMO?

Updated: Dec 21, 2017
  • Author: Edwin Rodriguez-Cruz, MD; Chief Editor: Stuart Berger, MD  more...
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Answer

Answer

The term extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) was initially used to describe long-term extracorporeal support that focused on the function of oxygenation. Subsequently, in some patients, the emphasis shifted to carbon dioxide removal, and the term extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal was coined. Extracorporeal support was later used for postoperative support in patients following cardiac surgery. [1] Other variations of its capabilities have been tested and used over the last few years, making it an important tool in the armamentarium of life and organ support measures for clinicians. With all of these uses for extracorporeal circuitry, a new term, extracorporeal life support (ECLS), has come into vogue to describe this technology.

See Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome: A Complex Clinical Condition, a Critical Images slideshow, for more information on this life-threatening condition characterized by acute respiratory failure, hypoxemia, and pulmonary edema.


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