Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)
ECMO therapy helps patients who have life-threatening pulmonary (lung) or heart failure. Because their heart and lungs are too weak to pump blood and distribute oxygen, their lives are at risk. We use an ECMO machine to distribute blood and oxygen to keep these patients alive.
What is ECMO?
In a healthy person, the heart and lungs work together to circulate blood throughout the body. Extracorporeal means “outside the body.” When these organs are failing, ECMO takes over that work.  The ECMO pump pulls blood out of the body into an artificial lung. The machine supplies oxygen to the blood and removes carbon dioxide. The blood, now a healthy bright red, is warmed and returned to the patient.
All patients receive 24/7 medical attention from a team of trained, experienced specialists. We deliver ECMO therapy at the patient’s bedside, where it is quicker and safer for the patient.
The team includes:
• Critical Care physicians
• Cardiac surgeons
• Intensive Care nurses
• Heart specialists
• Lung specialists
A bridge to recovery
Doctors often refer to ECMO as a “bridge” therapy because it helps a patient move through a crisis. It provides support until the patient is strong enough for the next stage of treatment, which could be:
• Healing at the hospital
• Recovery at home
• A mechanical heart support device implant
• A heart transplant
Within AHN, our objective is providing patients with the right care, at the right place, at the right time. Over the years, through a great deal of research, training and experience, doctors at Allegheny General Hospital have dramatically improved the survival rates. Today, more critically ill patients are recovering well after ECMO therapy.
With appropriate resources, patients will have greater access to evaluation and intervention and we can continue to expand the specialized care for our patients.
AHN is grateful to you for your support of its mission and, specifically, the ECMO Program.
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About the Cardiovascular Institute...

The physicians of the Allegheny Health Network CVI’s seven hospitals and 20 outpatient Pittsburgh and Erie-area locations maintain a singular focus on each and every patient, ensuring that the care you receive is specific to your needs and the most effective approach to a full recovery. Our true passion is to keep hearts beating healthier and longer. This comes to life through our inventive spirit of discovering new ways to diagnose and treat heart disease, some of which include:

- Helped pioneer the use of the latest generation of implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, battery-powered devices that continuously monitor heart rhythm, collect important data about heart function and assist in regulating abnormal heartbeat.

- Among the first in the nation to perform transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), replacing defective aortic heart valves via a minimally invasive catheter procedure.

- Introduced new treatments to repair defective mitral valves via robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery or through a catheter-based approach where the leaflets of the valve are clipped together. Played an instrumental role in the development of left ventricular assist devices (LVAD), mechanical pumps that are surgically implanted to assist a weakened heart muscle either as a destination therapy or bridge to transplant.

To learn more, please visit our website.


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