What is Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)?

  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, or ECMO, is a mechanical circulatory system that temporarily takes over the function of the lungs in patients with acute respiratory failure. It can also provide cardiac support until the patient recovers or is able to receive further treatment. ECMO is used in adult and pediatric patients, including neonatal patient cases.
  • The ECMO machine is similar to the heart-lung bypass machine used in open-heart surgery. It pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the lungs, and sometimes the heart, to rest. When patients are connected to an ECMO device, blood flows through tubing to an artificial lung in the machine that adds oxygen and takes out carbon dioxide; then the blood is warmed to body temperature and pumped back into the body.
  • There are two types of ECMO procedures:
    • The venoarterial ECMO is connected to both a vein and an artery and is used when there are problems with the heart and lungs.
    • The venovenous ECMO is connected to one or more veins, usually near the heart, and is used when the problem is primarily in the lungs.
  • ECMO is beneficial in patient care for the following scenarios:
    • As a bridge to recovery from lung failure.
    • As a bridge to further treatment when doctors want to assess the state of other organs before performing surgery.
    • As a bridge for patients awaiting cardiothoracic transplant. The ECMO device takes over the heart and/or lungs’ responsibility of breathing when the organs are experiencing failure while the transplant team seeks a suitable donor.

Why UF Health?

  • We are the most experienced adult respiratory ECMO program in North Central Florida. Additionally, we are the only program in the state of Florida with the capability of transporting patients already on ECMO to our facility. The ability to transport patients on ECMO broadens our scope of Hospital to Home (H2H) transfers. We provide a patient-centered, disease-specific model of care for this lifesaving treatment within UF Health’s 24-bed advanced lung ICU.
  • Our adult respiratory ECMO team provides state-of-the-art treatment for patients featuring expert clinicians from pulmonary medicine, critical care medicine, thoracic surgery and lung transplantation. In addition, our multidisciplinary team includes critical care nurses, respiratory therapists, critical care-trained pharmacists (PharmDs), critical care physical and occupational therapists, nutritionists, speech therapists and social workers.

Related Conditions

Respiratory ECMO Team Physicians


  • For all internal UF Health communication/referrals/consults, please contact the on-call provider listed under “Adult Respiratory ECMO” in SPOK.