Research on ECMO

Ongoing ECMO research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia supports the innovation of extracorporeal support for life-threatening illness in children.

Extracorporeal life support refers to the use of ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) or other techniques to provide oxygenation, ventilation, and circulation of blood for patients with respiratory and/or cardiac failure.

Similar to cardiopulmonary bypass during surgical procedures, ECMO can completely support the heart and lungs for days to months, providing critically ill children a bridge to heal and overcome critical illness. Without this support they would not survive.

The use of ECMO is increasing in both adults and children, especially for respiratory failure. In 2015, nearly 8,000 patients were placed on ECMO according to the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) registry. This number continues to grow every year.

Despite the growth in utilization, there is still considerable work to be done to improve outcomes for this growing field. Nearly 50 percent of all patients placed on ECMO will not survive to hospital discharge.

Our ECMO research is made possible by the Ryan family and other donors. This support is critical to help translate research into the development of technologies and therapies to support heart and lung failure while preserving neurologic integrity and outcomes in the most critically ill children.

One area of focus is in brain protection. At CHOP, every child on ECMO receives around-the-clock EEG monitoring, and we are conducting research using light to measure brain blood flow and brain oxygen metabolism, with the goals of improving our use of ECMO and protecting patients' developing brains.

This work will be accomplished by supporting the extracorporeal life support laboratory and clinical research mission of the ECMO Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Our team is comprised of international leaders in life support models development and continues to redefine clinical indications and pathways for extracorporeal life support.

ecmo machine

About ECMO

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, is a cardiopulmonary bypass technique that provides breathing and heart support.

Little boy in hospital laying down

What Sets Us Apart

Our ECMO Center is one of the most active in the country, meeting the highest standards of training and expertise.

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