The medical abbreviation "ECMO" stands for "Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation." ECMO is a life support technique used in critical care medicine to provide temporary support for the heart and lungs when they are unable to function adequately on their own.
During ECMO, blood is diverted from the body through large cannulas (tubes) to an ECMO machine. The machine acts as an artificial lung and heart by oxygenating the blood and removing carbon dioxide. The oxygenated blood is then returned to the body, bypassing the heart and lungs. This process helps provide necessary oxygenation and support to the body's organs and tissues.
ECMO is typically used in cases of severe respiratory failure or heart failure that are unresponsive to conventional treatments. It can be used for both adult and pediatric patients. ECMO is often considered as a last-resort treatment when other interventions have been unsuccessful.
The duration of ECMO support can vary from a few days to several weeks, depending on the underlying condition and the patient's response to treatment. ECMO requires specialized equipment and a highly skilled healthcare team to monitor and manage the patient's condition closely.
There are three primary types of ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) configurations commonly used in medical practice. These configurations differ based on the vessels through which blood is accessed and returned to the body. The three types are:
Venoarterial ECMO (VA ECMO): In VA ECMO, blood is withdrawn from a large vein, typically the right atrium or vena cava, and returned to a major artery, typically the aorta. VA ECMO provides both respiratory and circulatory support. It bypasses the heart and lungs, oxygenating the blood and providing mechanical circulatory support. VA ECMO is commonly used in cases of severe heart and lung failure, such as in cardiac arrest, cardiogenic shock, or severe respiratory failure.
Veno-venous ECMO (VV ECMO): VV ECMO involves withdrawing blood from a large vein, such as the inferior vena cava, and returning it to the same vein or a nearby vein. VV ECMO primarily provides respiratory support by oxygenating the blood outside the body and removing carbon dioxide. It allows the lungs to rest and heal. VV ECMO is commonly used in cases of severe respiratory failure, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
Arteriovenous ECMO (AV ECMO): AV ECMO involves withdrawing blood from an artery and returning it to a vein. This configuration is less common than VA or VV ECMO and is used when arterial access is preferred or necessary for specific clinical reasons. AV ECMO can be used in situations where respiratory support alone is needed, but the patient's circulatory function remains stable.