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What is ECMO?

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, is a revolutionary treatment that actually oxygenates the blood outside of the body, supporting the heart and lungs when they cannot function normally on their own. Think of it as a heart/lung bypass that can be done right at a patient's bedside, allowing the lungs to rest and giving the body time to fight the infection.


Saving lives with ECMO

Life-saving care for all ages

There are certain types of illness or injuries that can make even a healthy person so sick that he or she will rapidly die. Many of these people can survive if they receive treatments that are available only in specialty centers.

For patients with profound lung failure and certain types of heart failure, ECMO (or “extracorporeal membrane oxygenation”) is such a treatment, and Legacy Emanuel Medical Center/Randall Children’s Hospital is such a specialty center.

ECMO is a complex process; it functions as the patient’s heart and lungs outside the body when the patient’s own lungs and/or heart fail.

Legacy offers this type of therapy to patients of all ages, from infants through childhood and adults. We are also able to provide this life-saving technology to patients in other hospitals and then transfer them from those hospitals to Portland, where we care for them with our experienced teams.


When is ECMO used?

ECMO is used to treat patients with conditions resulting from

  • Respiratory failure (often called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome or ARDS)
  • Pneumonia
  • Traumatic injury
  • Near drowning
  • Sepsis
  • Shock

Our providers

  •  Jonathan Hill, M.D., medical director, adult ECMO
  • Andrea Hoogerland, M.D., medical director, pediatric ECMO, Randall Children's Hospital

Award-winning care

Legacy's ECMO program has earned the ELSO (Extracorporeal Life Support Organization) Award for Excellence in Life Support. This award signifies that our program has been recognized as a “distinguished leader in critical care" and provides high-quality, state-of-the-art care. The ELSO Award of Excellence is recognized by US News and World Report and Parents magazines as a criterion for top institutions.

According to ELSO, our program "demonstrated extraordinary achievement" in patient care, training, collaboration, education and communication.  

A dedicated team uses ECMO against H1N1 flu

Perhaps the only thing more incredible than ECMO technology is the dedication of the Legacy team who works with it. Case in point: During the H1N1 virus (swine flu) outbreak, patients in southern Oregon needed immediate ECMO care and the Legacy Emanuel team sprang into action.

A National Guard helicopter was summoned to Emanuel, loaded with medical personnel, nurses, and critical gear, and flown to Medford to help transport the patient back via specially equipped ambulance. Legacy staffers drove their own cars down to Medford to pick up medical personnel — and as soon as they returned to Portland, they turned around and did it again. All along the I-5 corridor, hospitals were standing ready with emergency oxygen tanks in case the team needed them.

Both patients came home and fully recovered with their families. Their recovery is both a testament to the power of ECMO technology — and the lengths we're willing to go to for the lives of our patients.

Patient stories

Dozens of patients a year undergo life-saving treatment at our ECMO Center. See Tom Trautman's story.