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Things You Should Know Before Ecmo Treatment Start

ECMO, also known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, is a technique for supporting breathing and the heart. It is typically administered to critically unwell newborns with heart or lung conditions. 

While medical professionals address the underlying issue, ECMO can give a newborn the essential oxygenation. Under certain conditions, ECMO may also be advantageous for older children and adults.

The blood is oxygenated during ECMO using a membrane oxygenator, a form of the artificial lung. The blood is given oxygen and returned to the body with a warmer and filter.

Who Requires ECMO?

Doctors put you on ECMO treatment because you have severe but treatable heart or lung issues. ECMO takes over the function of the heart and lungs. You get a chance to rest because of this. 


Conditions that may necessitate ECMO in babies include:

  • syndrome of respiratory distress (difficulty breathing)
  • congenital hernia of the diaphragm (a hole in the diaphragm)
  • syndrome of meconium aspiration (inhalation of waste products)
  • Thoracic hypertension (high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery)
  • really bad pneumonia
  • breathing difficulty
  • heart failure
  • heart surgery
  • sepsis


A child might require ECMO if they:

  • pneumonia
  • serious illnesses
  • a congenital cardiac condition
  • heart surgery
  • trauma and other urgent situations
  • hazardous substances being inhaled into the lungs
  • asthma


Conditions that could necessitate ECMO in an adult include:

  • Pneumonia, injuries, and other crises
  • heart assistance following cardiac failure
  • serious illnesses

How Should You Get Ready for ECMO Treatment?

A doctor will examine a person before ECMO. A cranial ultrasound will confirm that there is no brain bleeding. The heart’s functionality will be determined through a cardiac ultrasound. 

You will also get a daily chest X-ray while receiving ECMO. Doctors will get the tools ready after deciding that ECMO is required. The ECMO will be performed by a committed ECMO team, including a board-certified physician with education and experience in ECMO. 

The group also consists of:

  • Registered nurses in ICU
  • breathing specialists
  • consultants, support staff, and perfusionists (specialists in the use of heart-lung machines)

What Occurs Throughout ECMO Treatment?

While you are under general anaesthesia, the surgeons will insert and secure the cannulae in the neck, groyne, or chest, depending on your age. Usually, while receiving ECMO, you will remain unconscious. The heart or the lungs are replaced with ECMO. During ECMO, doctors will closely examine the following by obtaining daily X-rays and observing:

  • respiration rate and heart rate
  • amounts of oxygen
  • systolic pressure

The lungs are kept active and assist expel secretions with the use of a ventilator and breathing tube.

What Are the ECMO-Related Complications?

Bleeding is the major ECMO risk. To stop clotting, heparin thins the blood. Additionally, it makes bleeding in the body and brain more likely. Patients on ECMO must routinely be screened for bleeding issues. 

The insertion of the cannulae also carries a risk of infection. Blood transfusions will probably be given often to patients on ECMO. There is a little chance of infection with them. Another concern is that the ECMO equipment will malfunction or fail. The ECMO staff is equipped to handle emergencies like ECMO failure.

The Method of ECMO Treatment Therapy

It is invasive to use ECMO. A medical professional will place a cannula—a small, flexible tube—into a vein. This cannula is also known as a drainage cannula because its main use is to remove blood. A second cannula will also be implanted to return warmed, oxygenated blood to the body.

Patients undergoing surgery or having severe heart or lung issues may benefit from ECMO. Primary pulmonary hypertension (PPHN), including idiopathic PPHN, meconium aspiration syndrome, respiratory distress syndrome, hypoxia, and congenital PPHN are some of the conditions that require ECMO in newborns.

Advice for Parents Whose Children Are Receiving ECMO Treatment

  • It can be upsetting and even traumatic for parents, guardians, and family members to have a child on ECMO. You’ll probably discover that the experience has both many highs and lows. The advice that follows comes from other parents who have been in your position.
  • Prioritize looking after yourself. Every day, I eat, sleep, and go outside. Decisions regarding your child’s medical care will need to be made, which you can only do if you are well-rested and awake.
  • Participate actively in your child’s care. Most parents lack medical knowledge, making it challenging for them to comprehend most medical jargon and facts. Ask questions to gain insight into the situation.


ECMO treatment is done gradually and with great care to ensure that the patient’s heart and lungs continue to function normally. When the need for ECMO is no longer there, the team removes the cannulas and seals the entry ports into the body. To know more, contact Maxhealthcare.

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