Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is temporary cardiopulmonary bypass used to support a patient with heart or lung failure. Cardiopulmonary bypass was developed to replace heart and lung function during open heart surgery. It was subsequently adapted for prolonged support and is performed and continued at patients' bedsides

Children with heart or lung failure who do not respond to conventional medical therapies may be candidates for ECMO support. The ECMO circuit drains blood from the body, exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide, warms the blood and pumps it back into the child's body. Placing the child on ECMO allows time for the heart and/or lungs to improve or to serve as a bridge to other long-term extracorporeal support or heart transplant.

ECMO is used in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or the Lefkofsky Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and the Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit. Faculty members from the divisions of Pediatric Surgery, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Neonatology and Critical Care work together to manage ECMO for these children. 

Our ECPR (extracorporeal rapid response) team is available for a predetermined group of cardiac patients in the cardiac care unit. The goal of the strategy is to provide ECMO prior to/or at the time of a cardiac arrest in this at-risk population.

 

ECMO Survivors: How Our Patients Overcame the Odds

A group of our ECMO patients and families have shared their stories with us so that their children's survival can give other parents hope. Read the stories below to learn about how these children's families coped with the situation, and the great things our ECMO survivors are doing today.

Chelsea - After being born with meconium aspiration syndrome, Chelsea was airlifted to our hospital and quickly put on ECMO. Read Chelsea's story.

Drew - When Drew was two months old, he was admitted to Lurie Children's with respiratory distress and bilateral pleural effusions. Ten days after Drew was admitted, his mom was told that a more drastic form of treatment would be needed to save him. Read Drew's story.

Eleanor - At Anne and Jeff Pando’s 20-week check-up, their unborn baby girl was diagnosed with a diaphragmatic hernia. They were devastated to hear that their baby would need surgery to repair her diaphragm and time to allow her lungs to grow. Eleanor was put on ECMO after her first surgery. Read Eleanor's story.

Grace - When Grace was born with pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in her lungs) it was a complete shock to her parents. Within her first 36 hours of life, she deteriorated to the point that the transport team from Children's Memorial Hospital (now Lurie Children's) needed to be called. Read Grace's story.

Jessica - Soon after birth, Jessica was diagnosed with severe meconium aspiration syndrome and was rushed from Prentice Women's Hospital to Children's Memorial Hospital. Read Jessica's story.

Kaysen - Almost immediately after birth, Kaysen suffered a severe cardiac event, similar to a heart attack in adults. After being transported to Lurie Children's, her heart stopped completely. She was quickly resuscitated and put on ECMO. Read Kaysen's story.

Madeline - At birth, Madeline was not very responsive, and when the doctors and nurses couldn’t get Madeline to cry, she was rushed to the NICU for critical care. After a few hours with no diagnosis, Madeline was transported to our hospital and quickly put on ECMO. Read Madeline's story.

Samantha - Samantha was diagnosed with a diaphragmatic hernia soon after birth, and was quickly airlifted to Children's Memorial Hospital. Read Samantha's story.

Tyler - Tyler Reineke was immediately diagnosed with 100% meconium aspiration syndrome after birth and was rushed to Children's Memorial Hospital by ambulance. Read Tyler's story.

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Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation