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Extra corporeal life support: paediatric

Published on 07 February 2024

The Extra Corporeal Life Support (ECLS) Service is based in the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow. ECLS provides temporary life support to children with respiratory or cardiac failure, while allowing the lungs to rest.

What is extra corporeal life support?

ECLS uses extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a supportive intensive care technique offered to children who develop acute but potentially reversible respiratory/cardiac failure.

An ECMO machine is like a heart-lung bypass machine used for open heart surgery. Extra corporeal means ‘outside the body’ and membrane oxygenation means that the blood has oxygen added to it via a membrane, or 'artificial lung'. ECMO thus continuously circulates blood from the patient through an artificial lung which adds oxygen to it before returning it to, and circulating it around, the patient's body.