Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a form of heart-lung bypass that can be used for long-term support of the lungs and/or heart following a critical illness or surgery. Unlike traditional heart-lung bypass support, ECMO can be used for days as opposed to hours.
ECMO equipment is comprised of a catheter, inserted into one or more large veins in the child's body by a pediatric surgeon to withdraw blood; a membrane oxygenator; and a circuit. The catheter transports unoxygenated blood to a pump that acts as the child's "heart." The blood is pumped through a membrane where it is oxygenated and rewarmed by a heater, then returned to the body via the catheter. ECMO allows the heart and lungs to rest, so the body's natural healing process can work more efficiently.
The Wolfson ECMO program is being used to treat a number of conditions in babies and other children, including persistent pulmonary hypertension, viral pneumonia, status asthmaticus, viral endocarditis and meningococcemia.