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Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is an advanced life support option and medical technique that supports heart and lung function if you're experiencing heart failure, respiratory failure or cardiogenic shock.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment in Asheville, North Carolina

Sometimes, your heart and lungs need rest to properly function. We can help.

As part of our commitment to care innovation, Mission Hospital offers ECMO therapy for cardiopulmonary issues. These machines pump blood outside your body, removing carbon dioxide and injecting oxygen.

Related specialties

Learn more about our related specialties.

Conditions that may require ECMO

ECMO machines are primarily used as life-support bridges during and between surgery, as well as if you are experiencing a life-threatening condition, such as:

  • Acute hypothermia
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • Cardiogenic shock
  • Cardiopulmonary trauma
  • Complications from heart surgery
  • COVID-19, if immunocompromised
  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Myocarditis
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Respiratory failure
  • Sepsis
  • Severe flu

ECMO services we offer

ECMO machines can be used in a variety of ways. The goal is always the same: ensuring your heart or lungs function as they should, with as much oxygen as possible.

Diagnostic testing involved with ECMO

Given the significant nature of ECMO and the resources it requires, our specialists will first need to conduct a series of tests. These tests allow us to understand your critical health details, such as oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your blood, as well as current cardiological, neurological and pulmonary function. Tests we may perform include:

  • Arterial blood gas (ABG)
  • Chest X-ray
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • Echocardiogram

Types of ECMO treatments we provide

At its core, ECMO therapy is used so that your heart and lungs can receive enough assistance to function at a high level, with minimal exertion of their own. When your organs are able to operate on their own, it typically means you no longer need treatment from the ECMO machine.

Depending on your condition, there are two types of ECMO that can be used:

  • Venoarterial ECMO (VA-ECMO) This type is used when both your heart and your lungs are experiencing simultaneous problems. During treatment, we place a tube in both a vein and an artery to help your heart and lungs rest and improve.
  • Venvenous ECMO (VV-ECMO) — This type includes placing one or more tubes in veins only, because it is specifically designed for treating lung problems alone. Depending on the progression of your condition, you may need to switch to VA-ECMO during therapy.

ECMO process details

ECMO therapy is an advanced treatment for advanced conditions. Knowing some of the particulars about how it works can help prepare you or your loved one.

How is someone placed on ECMO?

If you or a loved one needs ECMO, the doctor will thoroughly explain any risks. A specially trained surgeon and operating room team will place the tubes, either in the operating room or at your bedside.

Anyone on the ECMO machine will also remain on a breathing machine (ventilator). This will make it easier to remove fluids from the lungs, enable smaller breaths and help your lungs heal, while they do minimal work. The amount of time it takes to come off the breathing machine varies based on your unique needs.


How is nutrition provided if I am on ECMO?

While on ECMO, you or your loved one will typically receive all nutrition needed for energy and healing through an IV. Conversely, you could also be fed through a tube that is placed in the nose or mouth and goes to the stomach.


What can I do to help someone who is on ECMO?

Family plays an important part in recovery. If your loved one is on ECMO, there are some things you can do to help:

  • Bring photographs, music or relaxation apps
  • Call at any time, day or night, to check on them
  • If they have children, have the children draw or color pictures for their bedside
  • Take care of yourself by eating well and getting plenty of rest so that you can be strong for them
  • Touch your loved one and talk to them

When can I stop using ECMO?

Weaning off ECMO, rather than coming off outright all at once, will let us know if your lungs are able to adequately put oxygen into your blood. While weening off ECMO treatment, the speed of the blood flow through the ECMO pump is decreased, and help with the breathing machine is increased. The blood will still flow through the ECMO machine.


Our Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation Locations

Currently Viewing:

Mission Hospital
509 Biltmore Ave
Asheville, NC 28801
 (828) 213 - 1111

Currently Viewing:

Mission Hospital
509 Biltmore Ave
Asheville, NC 28801
 (828) 213 - 1111

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