What does ECMO do?

• ECMO is used when a child has severe lung and/or heart problems. At such times the lungs/heart don’t work properly.
• The ECMO system does the work of the lungs and heart, but using a machine placed outside the body.
• ECMO is not a cure but it can give time for the heart and lungs to improve.
• ECMO is only used when the child’s condition can improve with rest.


  • When lungs are sick or injured they cannot add oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the blood.
  • ECMO can do this while allowing time for the lungs to heal.


  • If the heart cannot pump effectively, the circulation of blood to the lungs and body is affected.
  • ECMO can pump blood to the lungs and throughout the body, so the heart can rest and heal.

When is ECMO used?

ECMO may be used for:

• Pneumonia
• Asthma
• Myocarditis and Cardiomyopathy
• Near-drowning
• Aspiration pneumonia
• After cardiac surgery

Your doctor will explain your child’s diagnosis and tell you why your child needs ECMO. If you don’t understand anything, please ask.