Frequently asked questions

Who is eligible to receive ECMO?

At Mayo Clinic only people who are being treated in the hospital may receive ECMO. It might be an option for people who haven't responded to other life-support measures, such as medicine or a ventilator.

How does ECMO differ from a ventilator?

A ventilator moves air in and out of the lungs when a patient is unable to get enough oxygen on their own. An ECMO machine circulates blood through a machine to remove carbon dioxide and add oxygen.

How long will I be on this type of life support?

That depends on the specifics of your condition and how you respond to treatments. It might be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

What are the most common risks of ECMO?

Possible side effects include bleeding, stroke, seizure, blood clot and infection.

Can this type of care be delivered at home?

No, ECMO is a therapy that uses complex machines found only in intensive care units or other medical facilities with an ECMO machine.

Is ECMO considered for people in hospice?

No, ECMO is not an option for people whose life expectancy is less than six months. And it's not an option for people who have entered end-stage irreversible heart or lung disease and are not candidates for transplantation or long-term mechanical circulatory support.

Is ECMO an option for infants?

Infants with serious conditions who may benefit from ECMO might receive the treatment if they are at least 4.6 pounds (2 kilograms) and older than 34 weeks.