Heart - Cardiology & Cardiovascular Surgery

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Program

People who have a serious condition that stops their heart or lungs from working properly may benefit from an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine. This state-of-the-art equipment performs the function of the heart and lungs. At Mount Sinai Fuster Heart Hospital, we may use this life-saving treatment for a few hours, a few days, or even a few weeks. 

What is ECMO?

ECMO is a treatment that provides respiratory and cardiac support when the lungs and/or heart cannot provide the body with adequate flow of blood with oxygen. We use it for patients with advanced heart or lung failure if standard treatments are not working. We may also use ECMO to resuscitate patients in cardiac arrest. 

To use ECMO, we place a tube into a vein that takes blood away from the body. We pass the blood into the ECMO machine, which adds oxygen, removes carbon dioxide, and then pumps the blood back into the body through another tube placed in a different artery or vein. This temporary treatment allows the heart and/or lungs to rest and enables the body’s other organs to recover from the effects of not getting enough blood or oxygen. We often use ECMO as an emergency procedure and it is either done at the bedside or in a procedure room.  
There are two types of ECMO machines: 

  • Veno venous ECMO: Also called VV ECMO, we use this machine if the heart is working but the patient needs lung support. 
  •  Veno arterial ECMO: We use this machine, also called VA ECMO, to support the heart.

Conditions We Treat

Mount Sinai Fuster Heart Hospital physicians uses ECMO to help treat a variety of serious conditions including:

  • Acute myocardial infarction
  • Acute deterioration of chronic heart failure
  • Fulminant myocarditis
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Witnessed cardiac arrest
  • Heart failure that occurs after medical procedures such  as open heart surgery
  • Severe life-threatening forms of adult respiratory distress syndrome
  • Severe life-threatening viral pneumonia (including influenza and COVID-19)

Not all patients with advanced heart or lung failure are appropriate for ECMO. Your doctor and the ECMO specialists will advise on alternative treatments if necessary. 

Meet Our Team 

Mount Sinai Fuster Heart Hospital’s ECMO team is comprised of specially trained staff including:

  • Advanced heart failure cardiologists
  • Cardiothoracic surgeons
  • Critical care nurses
  • Critical care physical therapists
  • Intensivists
  • Interventional cardiologists
  • Perfusionists
  • Pulmonologists
  • Social workers
  • Supportive cardiology staff

If a patient is acutely ill at an institution that does not have ECMO, our team can evaluate the patient and can sometimes get to that institution and place ECMO, if appropriate. Our ECMO specialists are on-call 24/7.

The Mount Sinai Hospital was designated as a Silver Level Center on the Path to Excellence in Life Support by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) in January of 2023. This award recognizes The Mount Sinai Hospital's extracorporeal membrane oxygen (ECMO) life support program for its alignment with ELSO guidelines, and identifies centers that demonstrate an exceptional commitment to evidence-based processes and quality measures, staff training and continuing education, patient satisfaction, and ongoing clinical care.