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1/ What is ECMO?

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) is a mechanical system that temporarily takes over the function of the lungs in patients with acute respiratory failure or/and of the heart when cardiogenic shock or cardiac failure occur. It provides support until the patient recovers or is able to receive further treatment (heart transplant i.e.).

In most approaches to ECMO for respiratory failure, a catheter is placed in a central vein. A mechanical pump draws blood from the vein into the ECMO circuit, where the blood passes into a chamber (referred to as an "oxygenator"). The oxygenator allows oxygen to diffuse into the blood and carbon dioxide to diffuse out of the blood. The blood may be warmed or cooled as needed, and returned either to a central vein ("venovenous ECMO") for respiratory support or to an artery ("venoarterial ECMO") for combined respiratory and cardiac support. 

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