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Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

Call for more information: 770-219-5416

ECMO provides extra support to heart and lungs

When critical patients require additional support for severe or life-threatening breathing or cardiac conditions, there is help.  The Heart Center at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) offers a special therapy for these cases.

For patients with severe or life-threatening lung or heart problems, the use of a ventilator may be used to support breathing.  However, a ventilator may not be able to get enough oxygen into the bloodstream due to the severity of the lung or heart problem.  For these particular cases, ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, may be used.


ECMO provides temporary cardiopulmonary support.  This machine can perform the work of the lungs and heart—it circulates blood outside of the body, puts in essential oxygen and removes carbon dioxide.  This lifesaving device is used when other forms of therapy, including traditional ventilation, do not work. ECMO enables the heart and lungs to “rest” and heal.  Patients who benefit most from this treatment are those with life-threatening, but likely reversible, heart or lung diseases.

A New Approach

ECMO machines were traditionally used to revive newborn babies who struggled with breathing or had heart conditions.  More hospitals began incorporating this technology following a flu epidemic in the United States earlier this decade.

However, this treatment has been slow to catch on due to the commitment necessary to start and support a hospital program. Nurses and other ancillary staff members underwent extensive training to support ECMO machines at The Heart Center of NGMC.

ECMO is currently performed at the Gainesville campus and will eventually also be performed at Braselton.  The system is portable, which means that if a patient progresses to needing a heart or lung transplant, the patient can be transported safely to a transplant center.

To request an appointment with The Heart Center of NGMC, call 770-534-2020 or visit

SUCCESS STORY: Saving a new mother's life

Harley Cook was on a ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) Gainesville, fighting for her life. The day before, she had been the picture of health as she posed for her 34-week pregnancy selfie to document her rounding belly and the growth of her unborn daughter, Olivia. Suddenly, she spiked a high fever and was rushed to the emergency room. 

Click here to learn about Harley Cook's ECMO story.


Call the Heart & Vascular Services department at 770-219-5416 or send us a contact form for more information.

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