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Extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) service: adult

Published on 07 February 2024

The adult Extra corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Service is based within the Royal Infirmary Hospital in Aberdeen. ECMO provides temporary life support to adults with severe respiratory failure, while allowing the lungs to rest and recover from injury.

What is extra corporeal life support?

Extra corporeal life support uses ECMO, a supportive intensive care technique offered to adults who develop acute but potentially reversible respiratory failure.

An ECMO machine is similar to 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 continuously circulates blood from the patient through an artificial lung, which adds oxygen to the blood and removes waste carbon dioxide, before returning it to, and circulating it around the patient's body.