What is ECMO?

ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. It is a form of advanced life support. There are two types of ECMO, VA (venous-arterial) ECMO and VV (veno-venous) ECMO. I received VA ECMO during my hospitalization. A tube was inserted into my chest into the atrium of my heart and took all the blood out of my body. It was warmed, cleaned, oxygenated and returned to my body through another tube placed through my femoral artery for six days. It was a complete heart and lung bypass. My body was suspended in animation. The machines were doing the living for me while my body was slowly trying to repair itself. The demographics for ECMO are mostly neonates, babies that are under 30 days old, usually due to prematurity with poor cardiac and respiratory function. But, there has been a shift where ECMO is being used in a growing number of pediatric and complex adult cases. The mortality rate for VA ECMO varies between 30%-50%.

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