Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

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.

Connect with us today!

Are ready to talk with a member of Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s Heart & Vascular Services department? Here are three ways you can get started:


Choose a doctor from our expert Heart & Vascular team.


For official physician ECMO consultations please call 770-219-6400.


Connect with us using our short online form.