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Working together to make heart, lungs stronger, healthier

The heart and lungs have the very important job of supplying oxygen and blood throughout the body. Sometimes, especially in the case of critical illness or injury, the heart or lungs need a little extra support to help the body recover. When that happens, our health care team may recommend using extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) therapy.

At VCU Health Pauley Heart Center, we’re here to help you understand this process and be by your side every step of the way. Our team of specialists – including heart and lung doctors, respiratory therapists, nurse specialists, radiologists and palliative care providers – work together to help you recover.

Understanding ECMO

ECMO can be a lifesaving therapy, but it’s important to keep in mind that it does not treat the underlying condition. Instead, it temporarily does the work of an individual’s heart and lungs – allowing the heart and lungs to rest, recover and heal. During ECMO, unoxygenated blood is removed from the body and run through a machine (oxygenator). This machine takes carbon dioxide out of the blood and adds oxygen. Blood is then warmed before being returned to the body.

Throughout this process, the body’s progress is closely monitored – including any reactions to continued therapy or treatments that address the underlying condition. We communicate every milestone to the individual’s family with honesty, compassion and respect.

We offer ECMO to patients of all ages for several heart and lung illnesses, including:

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • Cardiogenic shock following acute myocardial infarction (AMI or heart attack)
  • Myocarditis
  • Pneumonia

An ECMO Center of Excellence

ECMO is a complex, advanced therapy. At Pauley Heart Center, we are honored to be recognized as an ECMO Center of Excellence – Gold Level by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO).

This designation recognizes our team’s commitment to providing evidence-based care and our ability to deliver high-quality care that leads to better patient outcomes. 

ELSO Award

Meet Our Team