Extracorporeal Life Support Program

Advanced Cardiopulmonary Support

The Extracorporeal Life Support Program at The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital (BMSCH) offers extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a specialized cardiac and respiratory support system.

Silver Award - Path to Excellence in Life Support Extracorporeal means support that takes place outside the body. Membrane refers to the type of artificial lung that is used. Oxygenation means supplying oxygen to the blood.

All together, it means a system that does the work of the heart and lungs outside of the body so those organs have time to rest and heal.

At BMSCH, we provide ECMO support to newborns, older infants, children and teens.

Our expert team of physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other specialists provides award-winning service following internationally established guidelines and protocols.

ECMO Critical Care Transport

If you are a physician or health care facility and need to arrange a transport for a patient requiring ECMO, please call (732) 926-4111.

How the ECMO Machine Works

The ECMO machine is sometimes referred to as “the circuit” because the circulation of blood from the patient to the machine and back forms a loop.

The machine’s pump moves blood from your child to the machine and back to your child through sterile plastic tubes. The ECMO oxygenator adds oxygen to the blood and removes carbon dioxide, just as functioning lungs would. Carbon dioxide is a waste gas that is usually removed from the blood by breathing.

ECMO Services We Offer

A child’s condition may call for one of two different ECMO treatments:

  • Veno-Venous (VV)
    ECMO is used when the heart is working but the lungs need time to rest and heal. VV ECMO supports the lungs by providing gas exchange, but does not directly support the circulatory system or heart with pumping force.
  • Veno-Arterial (VA)
    ECMO is used when both the heart and the lungs need time to rest and heal. VA ECMO supports the lungs by providing gas exchange, and directly supports cardiac function.

Conditions We Treat

ECMO is a treatment for serious problems of the heart or lungs (or both). It’s used when a patient’s heart or lungs are too weak to continue supporting the patient’s life and all other treatments that could help them work better have been tried.

The most common conditions that may lead to the need for ECMO treatment include:

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) — a life-threatening lung condition that prevents adequate oxygenation of blood circulating through the lungs
  • Cardiac arrest — a sudden stop in effective blood circulation due to the failure of the heart to contract
  • Cardiomyopathy — heart muscle malfunction for genetic or other reasons
  • Congenital diaphragmatic hernia — when part of the stomach bulges through the diaphragm, which is an important breathing muscle
  • Low cardiac output syndrome — a decrease in heart output that causes an inadequate supply of oxygen for the body
  • Meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) — can develop when, either before or during birth, a baby inhales meconium, the dark green waste produced in the baby’s gut while still in the uterus
  • Myocarditis— infection of the heart muscle
  • Neonatal sepsis — a bacterial bloodstream infection in a newborn
  • Persistent pulmonary hypertension — high blood pressure in the arteries that feed the lungs
  • Pneumonias — infection of the lungs
  • Severe asthma — a respiratory condition in which bronchi in the lungs spasm and excess mucous is produced, which causes difficulty breathing — often triggered by allergies

More Information