Frequently Asked Questions

This is an overview of Frequently Asked Questions about Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO). This growing service is becoming a mainstream part of pulmonary/critical care, trauma and cardiac-care services.

What is ECMO?

ECMO stands for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation. It acts as an external artificial heart and/or lung system, stepping in when a patient’s own organs are critically compromised or when conventional methods have proven inadequate. It works by taking over the functions of oxygenation and carbon dioxide removal while also providing crucial hemodynamic support.

How does ECMO work?

ECMO works by removing blood from the patient through a cannula, channeling it through an artificial pump and lung that oxygenates it and removes carbon dioxide. The blood is then returned to the patient, ensuring vital organs receive adequate oxygen supply despite the compromised function of the patient’s own respiratory or circulatory systems.

What medical conditions would benefit from the use of ECMO?

ECMO is typically used for patients with:

  • Respiratory failure
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Cardiogenic shock
  • Bridge to heart or lung transplant
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) Ø Pneumonia
  • Trauma incident
  • Congenital cardiac defects
  • Meconium aspiration

Who is ECMO for?

ECMO can support patients of all ages, from neonates to older adults, with severe but potentially reversible heart or lung failure who haven’t responded to conventional treatments.

How long do people stay on ECMO?

Depending on the disease process, patients can be supported on ECMO for a few days, several weeks, or even months.

What is the goal of ECMO?

The goal of ECMO is to provide temporary support for heart and/or lung function in critically ill patients, allowing time for the patient’s underlying disease process to recover or as a bridge to transplant.

Can ECMO be provided outside of the hospital or at home?

No, ECMO requires a level of support that can only be provided in a hospital setting, including continuous monitoring, specialized equipment, and highly-skilled personnel.

What are the survival rates for ECMO?

ECMO is a complex therapy that is utilized for patients that would otherwise die without it. The use of ECMO has allowed thousands of patients from all age groups to leave the hospital that otherwise wouldn’t. Depending upon the age group, 50%-72% of patients supported with ECMO survive to discharge. In fact, many recent studies have indicated a growing survival rate for patients of all ages.

How do I build an ECMO program, and what resources does it require?

Unlike other resource-intensive services for critical care, such as comprehensive stroke, ECMO is built on the foundation of resources you already have. The biggest investment is in equipment, staff acquisition, and training, all of which can be supported or provided by Innovative ECMO Concepts.

What kind of reimbursement does ECMO provide?

ECMO care has one of the highest reimbursement rates of any service a hospital can provide. For Medicare admissions, ECMO receives the third-highest DRG payment possible. Although state-specific, Medicaid reimbursement is consistently in the top 5 and often the highest reimbursed DRG. Net revenue from ECMO is typically higher per case and often pays for itself with just a few patients, enabling your hospital to re-invest in other lifesaving treatments.

Does ECMO support other critical care services and programs in the hospital?

ECMO has a halo effect that drives referrals and transfers for other high-margin services such as cardiovascular surgery, adult critical care, neonatal, pediatrics, and trauma. Hospitals with ECMO programs are the go-to location for higher acuity patients, thereby attracting a higher volume of patients requiring advanced care capabilities. Due to its complexity, ECMO is a high-margin therapy that is not at risk of being moved to an outpatient setting.

Is ECMO growing?

ECMO usage is on a significant upward trend. Over the last decade, hospitals have increasingly recognized the lifesaving potential of ECMO, leading to an expansion of its use in critical care and trauma. From 2010 to 2020, ECMO use grew by over 30%, a trend that is expected to continue due to its strong financial return, increased survival, and technological improvements such as remote monitoring. (Taken from ROI Calculator Paper as referenced in the 1315 document).

What certifications exist for ECMO?

The Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) recognizes hospitals that demonstrate exceptional care in the domain of ECMO with the “ELSO Center of Excellence” award, signifying a hospital’s commitment to providing high-quality ECMO care. ELSO Center of Excellence is recognized by the U.S. News & World Report Rankings.

How do I get started?

Call Innovative ECMO Concepts – with ECMO’s potential to save 1,000 lives a day, it’s our mission to support hospitals on their journey to implement a successful ECMO program, transforming healthcare for their patients and community.