Extracorporeal Life Support Service (ECMO)

Respiratory Support


The Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS) Service at Rhode Island Hospital offers patients respiratory assistance for lung disorders, also called veno-venous life support.

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) is primarily used when the heart is still able to pump blood through the circulatory system without any additional support, as in the case of acute respiratory failure or a massive pulmonary embolism.

The blood is removed from the jugular vein or a femoral vein for enrichment with oxygen, and then returned to a vein.

This ECMO treatment may be used in patients with refractory hypoxemic or hypercarbic respiratory failure from various conditions, including:

  • acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • severe influenza (such as H1N1)
  • status asthmaticus
  • massive air leak syndromes 

ECMO can provide critical time for lung recovery while avoiding the ventilator-associated lung injuries that can occur with traditional mechanical ventilation.