Mayo Clinic recognized for expertise in life support

Mayo Clinic in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota have awards as Centers of Excellence in life support from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization, also called ELSO.

Learn more about the ELSO award program. The Center of Excellence award is an indication of Mayo's exceptional care of people who need ECMO and its commitment to innovation and quality.

ECMO — The basics

ECMO is used in critical care situations when the lungs or heart need help.

Learn why it's done

The Mayo Clinic Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) program offers therapy to infants, children and adults who have life-threatening lung or heart conditions. ECMO takes over for the heart, lungs or both while a person heals. ECMO might be an option for people who aren't finding relief from other life-support methods, such as medicine or a ventilator. You might hear ECMO also referred to as extracorporeal life support.

ECMO does not treat or cure a disease. But it may help when people are unable to provide their tissues with enough oxygen. The ECMO machine acts as an artificial heart and lung by removing blood from the body by way of tubes and pumping the blood through the artificial lung. The part of the machine called an oxygenator removes carbon dioxide from the blood and puts in oxygen. The blood is then pumped back into the body.

Depending on your condition, ECMO can be used for a few days or up to a few weeks.

A specially trained care team

All ECMO team members have received specialty training in caring for people with complex or serious conditions. The care team is made up of:

  • Critical care physicians.
  • Specialty-trained nurses and respiratory therapists (ECMO specialists).
  • Perfusionists.
  • Cardiac surgeons.
  • Nurse practitioners or physician assistants.
  • Registered nurses.
  • Respiratory therapists.
  • Pharmacists.
  • Physical therapists.

Other care providers may be involved, depending on your needs.

Advanced, coordinated treatment

Nursing excellence

Jessica McNallan, R.N., Pediatric ICU, Mayo Clinic: Nathan was a cancer patient and he was admitted to the hospital with a respiratory infection. His situation was uncommon in the fact that he'd had chemotherapy and his immune system was was very fragile.

Becky Herber, mother: He was taking six different chemotherapy drugs, so his bone marrow was completely shut off at that point. He had no chance whatsoever to fight off any infection or virus.

Jessica McNallan, R.N.: And then when he came to our side, to the ICU side, we're just really saw him decline. We were throwing every therapy at him, but he didn't improve. Therapy after therapy, intervention after intervention.

Becky Herber: They had done everything they possibly could to sustain his lungs and everything had failed and he was in respiratory constant respiratory failure. And that's when everybody moved in to help transfer him from the PICU and the ventilator to the ECMO unit to preserve his lungs.

Jessica McNallan, R.N.: We knew we had one chance to make this happen. But because I worked both oncology and ICU, I had the skill set. The people on either side of me had the skill set. In a heated moment like that when we make that decision, let's go. We can do it.

Becky Herber: She commanded the room and she knew his case so well. Her forward thinking made a vital difference for Nathan in that transition time.

Andy Herber, father: I've worked in medicine for 16 years. I have never seemed perfect nursing like that before and I am so thankful for it.

Jessica McNallan, R.N.: I was the right person, in the right place, at the right time. I'm glad I was there and able to help and to have the outcome that they had.

Becky Herber: Nathan looks like a normal, healthy six year old. He is physically able to do things any normal six year old would be able to do. I know there's a miracle in our midst and I can't not be in awe of it.

When on ECMO life support, you're monitored at all times, every day, by several different teams and machines. You are hooked up to monitors that measure heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, oxygen levels, temperature, and other values.

The ECMO machine is closely monitored by an ECMO specialist. Blood is typically drawn and monitored multiple times a day. And daily X-rays may be needed to assess the patient's condition and monitor the placement of tubes.

Our program

ECMO is available at Mayo Clinic hospitals in Phoenix, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota. This service affects the care of people in many medical and surgical departments, including neonatal care, pediatric and adolescent medicine, critical care, cardiovascular surgery, Transplant Center, and pulmonary medicine.

The clinic has over 20 years' experience delivering ECMO treatment to infants, children and adults. More than 1,000 people have received ECMO care at Mayo Clinic.

Mayo Clinic regularly offers classes and training in simulation labs to help critical care medical professionals worldwide learn the latest ECMO techniques and technology.

Mayo Clinic in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota have awards as Centers of Excellence in life support from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization.

Innovative research

Mayo Clinic has been at the forefront of cardiovascular surgery since the specialty began. Mayo surgeons performed some of the world's first open-heart surgeries in children using a heart-lung machine developed at the clinic. Our physician-scientists and researchers continue that tradition of innovation by developing new ECMO solutions with the potential to improve people's lives.

See a list of publications about ECMO by Mayo Clinic authors on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Nationally recognized expertise

Mayo Clinic campuses are nationally recognized for expertise in cardiology and cardiovascular surgery:

  • Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Mayo Clinic in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona, and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, are ranked among the Best Hospitals for heart and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Mayo Clinic Children's Center in Rochester is ranked the No. 1 hospital in Minnesota, and the five-state region of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, according to U.S. News & World Report's 2023-2024 "Best Children's Hospitals" rankings.
  • Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and Mayo Clinic in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Ariz., are ranked as high performing for aortic valve replacement and transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedures by U.S. News & World Report. "High performing" is a designation given to the top 16% of TAVR programs across the nation (600+ programs). U.S News & World Report ranked hospitals for this procedure for the first time in 2022-2023.

Mayo Clinic is top-ranked in more specialties than any other hospital and has been recognized as an Honor Roll member according to the U.S. News & World Report's 2023-2024 "Best Hospitals" rankings.



  • Mayo Clinic Cardiac Surgery
  • 13400 E. Shea Blvd.
    Scottsdale, AZ 85259
  • Phone: 480-301-8484


  • Mayo Clinic Cardiac Surgery
  • 4500 San Pablo Road
    Jacksonville, FL 32224
  • Phone: 904-953-0773


  • Mayo Clinic Cardiac Surgery
  • 200 First St. SW
    Rochester, MN 55905
  • Phone: 507-255-2000
  • Mayo Clinic Pediatric Cardiac Surgery
  • 200 First St. SW
    Rochester, MN 55905
  • Phone: 507-255-2000
March 13, 2024

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Program