Cardiology

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation: indications, technique and contemporary outcomes

Learning objectives

  • Develop an understanding of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and the differences between veno-venous and veno-arterial ECMO.

  • Develop an understanding of the range of conditions that can be managed with ECMO and the contraindications.

  • Develop an appreciation of the common complications that patients suffer when supported with ECMO.

  • Introduction

    Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is an advanced form of temporary life support, to aid respiratory and/or cardiac function. It has been used since the early 1970s and is based on cardiopulmonary bypass technology and diverts venous blood through an extracorporeal circuit and returns it to the body after gas exchange through a semi-permeable membrane. ECMO can be used for oxygenation, carbon dioxide removal and haemodynamic support. Additional components allow thermoregulation and haemofiltration. The two most common forms of ECMO are veno-venous (VV) and veno-arterial (VA). In VV-ECMO, used to support gas exchange,…

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