In extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), blood is pumped outside of your body to a heart-lung (ECMO) machine that removes carbon dioxide and sends oxygen-filled blood back to tissues in the body. Blood flows from the right side of the heart to the ECMO machine, is rewarmed, and sent back oxygenated to the body. The purpose of ECMO is to continue to pump blood to the body while allowing the organs to rest and heal.

ECMO is used in critical care situations, when your heart and lungs need help so that you can heal.

ECMO may be used to help people who are very ill or may be waiting for or recovering from a heart transplant. It may be an option when other life support measures haven’t worked. ECMO does not treat or cure a disease, but can help you when your body temporarily can't provide your tissues with enough oxygen.