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Treatment at the Adult ECMO Program

At NYU Langone’s Adult ECMO Program, our team uses mechanical circulatory support and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to take over the work of a person’s heart and lungs, allowing them to heal. Mechanical circulatory support and ECMO can help treat people experiencing cardiogenic shock related to heart failure or heart attack, or acute respiratory failure related to acute respiratory distress syndrome, lung failure, pneumonia, or influenza. These types of treatments can last a few hours or for up to a few weeks. Our medical team transitions patients from the treatment as soon as it is safe to do so.

There are two main types of ECMO devices: venoarterial ECMO, which supports both the heart and lungs, and venovenous ECMO, which mainly supports the lungs. A mechanical circulatory support device only supports the heart.

ECMO and other support devices are used after other remedies, such as medications, extra oxygen, or a mechanical ventilator, prove insufficient to keep oxygenated blood circulating through the body. These treatments are initiated via a surgical procedure that requires anesthesia. The surgeon places plastic tubes called cannulas into blood vessels in the patient’s neck, chest, or leg. These tubes connect to the heart, transporting blood to the ECMO machine, where it is enriched with oxygen and then returned to the body.

ECMO Treatment for Acute Respiratory Failure

Venovenous ECMO aids recovery in a person who has severely injured lungs and is experiencing acute respiratory failure. This treatment is most often used to care for people experiencing severe lung infections, such as COVID-19, pneumonia, and influenza; inflammatory diseases of the lung, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome; and severe airway disease conditions, such as status asthmaticus, a severe form of asthma.

Our team selects the most appropriate approach for each patient, which can include venovenous ECMO and other treatments. Some people with severe lung disease may benefit from venovenous ECMO before a lung transplant.

Mechanical Circulatory Support and ECMO for Cardiogenic Shock

During acute heart failure following cardiogenic shock, a mechanical circulatory support device helps the heart function. Our experts may use this device as a temporary treatment that could lead to recovery, a treatment before a long-term device is implanted, such as a ventricular assist device, or as a treatment before a heart transplant or lung transplant.

Devices used by our team include the following:

  • temporary biventricular assist device (BiVAD), to support both of the heart’s ventricles
  • temporary left ventricular assist device, to support the heart’s left ventricle
  • temporary right ventricular assist device, to support the heart’s right ventricle
  • venoarterial ECMO (VA ECMO), to support the lungs and the heart’s two ventricles

Our team works with you to select the appropriate device for your particular condition.