ECMO Patient & Family Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions & Answers
Visit Legacy Emanuel Medical Center to find current location and contact information. View the Visiting us tab to find information about where to stay, where to eat, and other conveniences located on the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center campus.
View Legacy Health's current visitor restrictions and safety requirements.
What is ECMO?
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) utilizes a machine to support a patient's heart, lungs, or both, when a severe injury or illness interferes with their function. ECMO does not heal these vital organs but does the work for them, outside of the body, allowing the heart and/or lungs time to rest and recover. ECMO can provide 24/7 support and requires specially trained staff to manage.
What does the ECMO machine do?
Blood is pumped outside of the body through a membrane that adds oxygen and removes carbon dioxide. Blood flows from a major vein, through this membrane, is rewarmed, and then sent back to the body through a vein or artery.
How long will a patient be on ECMO?
ECMO is not for every patient and there are serious risks involved. Though many patients recover, some are too critically ill to survive despite our best efforts. The team of ECMO physicians at Legacy Health carefully consider who may benefit from this therapy. The team also thoroughly discusses risks and benefits with families and other loved ones prior to and throughout treatment.
ECMO offers a slow recovery that includes many ups and downs. The team of doctors, nurses, and other providers is dedicated to delivering exceptional care, providing education, discussing progress, and evaluating goals throughout an individual’s illness.
Who is on an ECMO patient's care team?
- Critical Care Nurses (Including ECMO Specialists and Primers)
- Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners
- Respiratory Therapists
- Physical and Occupational Therapists
- Speech Therapists
- Palliative Care Providers
- Social Workers
How can I help a loved one who is on ECMO get better?
We encourage friends and family members of loved ones to bring photos and items that help the patient connect to their life outside of the hospital. Please share any music or television preferences your loved one has as we try to incorporate these things into their care.
Why do they need a ventilator and ECMO? Are they still breathing?
ECMO takes a lot of work away from the lungs. Our goal is to require less need for the ventilator because we are not counting on the lungs as much. This allows the lungs to rest and heal. ECMO patients still breathe and may be more comfortable with gentle ventilator assistance.
When will my loved one be able to eat, walk, and talk? Get out of the ICU? Go home?
We celebrate these milestones with our ECMO patients. But no ECMO patient follows the same timeline as another. The entire team—patient, family, friends, and staff—work steadily toward these goals.