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Extracorporeal life support (ECMO)

ECMO - Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation

ECMO is an advanced therapy that acts as a temporary support for the lungs +/- the heart (venovenous ECMO supports the lungs, venoarterial ECMO supports the lungs and the heart). It is used to support children with acute reversible heart and/or lung conditions usually as a bridge to recovery and rarely as a bridge to more definitive treatment. It is very expensive and labour intensive with a number of potentially life threatening adverse effects.

PICU is the national referral centre for paediatric patients requiring ECMO. Patients who are potential ECMO candidates should be discussed early with PICU. In some cases we may be able to travel to another hospital and place a patient on ECMO then transfer them back to PICU but this is not a regular service and is highly dependent on staff and bed availability. Since its establishment in 1993, the ECMO Program at ADHB has supported more than 400 adult and paediatric patients.

Throughout the history of the ECMO Program at ADHB, we have gained considerable expertise, minimized complications and increased its success rate for survival to greater than 90% for some conditions. We have also come to realise that some conditions do poorly despite ECMO and we do not offer this treatment to those patients.

If you have a potential ECMO patient then please call and discuss the case with the on call PICU consultant.

If you are from a referring hospital, please see attached checklist of pre-arrival tasks for mobile ECMO.