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

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.