Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a life-saving procedure for adults and children with severe heart or lung conditions.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a life-saving procedure for adults and children with severe heart or lung conditions.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, (ECMO) is a life-saving treatment for patients with severe heart failure, lung failure or COVID-19 who don't respond to conventional therapy.

Similar to heart and lung bypass machines used during open-heart surgery, an ECMO machine takes over the work of the heart and lungs to help critically ill patients recover.

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Treatment at Rush

At Rush, we use ECMO to treat patients of all ages with life-threatening diseases that impair heart and/or lung function. While ECMO is often used for patients awaiting a heart or lung transplant, Rush is one of the first hospitals in the country to successfully treat COVID-19 patients with ECMO.

Most of our ECMO patients have complex lung and heart issues that are not responding to conventional therapy including the following:

For children and adults

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • Pneumonia
  • Inhalation of noxious (harmful or poisonous) substances, like gases, heat or particle pollution
  • Asthma
  • Hypoxemia (oxygen deficiency in arterial blood)
  • Hypercapnia (a buildup of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream)
  • Cardiogenic shock

For newborns

  • Meconium aspiration
  • Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN)
  • Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)
  • Congenital diaphragmatic hernia

We strive to create innovative, personalized care plans to help you or your child achieve a high-quality recovery. We emphasize the following:

  • Early extubation
  • Progressive mobility
  • Physical rehabilitation

Our occupational, physical and speech therapists work closely to get you eating and walking again, and help you with self-care practices to get back to a full life.

ECMO Providers at Rush

Learn more about ECMO providers at Rush.

Meet our ECMO providers
stethoscope Meet our ECMO providers

Rush Excellence in Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

  • Nationally recognized for excellence: At Rush University Medical Center, you will be treated by some of the nation's most highly trained and experienced ECMO specialists. We were the first center in Illinois to be designated by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) as a Gold Standard Center of Excellence in Life Support — the most prestigious designation in critical care — for both adult and pediatric ECMO patients.
  • Life-saving care: Our team has expertise with VV ECMO, a special type of ECMO for supporting the lungs. In fact, our success rate for saving patients using VV ECMO is 20% higher than the national average.
  • Leaders in COVID-19 treatment: Rush University Medical Center was one of the first hospitals in the country to use ECMO to successfully treat COVID-19-related pneumonia and lung problems.
  • Nationally ranked for thoracic and cardiac: The Society of Thoracic Surgeons has designated thoracic surgery at Rush a three-star program — the society’s highest rating — for coronary bypass graft surgery and lung resection procedures.
  • A collaborative team focused on you: Because ECMO care is so complex, it requires a team of experts. Our ICU nurses and respiratory therapists have completed specialized advanced training in ECMO. They partner with pulmonologists, cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, respiratory therapists, physical and occupational therapists and other team members to provide this life-saving therapy.
  • A higher level of care: Many patients who begin ECMO at other hospitals are transferred to Rush University Medical Center because of our ability to provide other advanced treatment options or long-term mechanical circulatory support.
  • Focus on restoring your mobility: Our ECMO experts developed a strategy to get our patients up and moving so they can get stronger even before they go home. For instance, you may start with standing in a specialized therapy bed and progress to walking in the hallway. Our use of progressive mobility improves your recovery; lowers your risk of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers and ventilator-associated pneumonia; and reduces your time in the ICU. It also means you're more awake during your course of treatment, so you can actively participate in your own recovery and interact more frequently with your loved ones.

You have to love this machine because it gives you a chance to live. Thanks to the machine I am right here and ready to go home and my family is waiting for me.

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