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Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is used to treat patients with severe, life-threatening conditions of the heart and lungs.
ECMO uses a pump to replace the function of the heart while an oxygenator performs the work of the lungs. ECMO provides short-term support, giving the heart and lungs time to recover.
Large plastic tubes called cannulas are placed in veins or arteries in the legs, neck, or chest and are connected to an ECMO machine. Blood passes through these tubes out of a patient’s body and through an oxygenator, where oxygen is added to the blood and carbon dioxide is removed before the blood is returned to the patient.
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Published Online: May 28, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.9148
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.
Source: MacLaren G, Fisher D, Brodie D. Preparing for the most critically ill patients with COVID-19: the potential role of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. JAMA. 2020;323(13):1245-1246.
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