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Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

Program Director:
Atkinson, James B. M.D.

Contact Phone Number
(310) 206-2429

Description of Clinical Program

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a biomedical device similar to a cardiopulmonary bypass or assist machine used during open-heart surgery. This technology provides life support for selected newborn and pediatric patients suffering from overwhelming but reversible respiratory or cardiac failure. In the case of newborns, ECMO therapy can be likened to returning the baby to the motherís placenta and then allowing a more gradual transition to breathing air.

The ECMO program at UCLA has been operational since 1998 and has successfully treated newborns and pediatric patients with congenital diaphragmatic hernia, meconium aspiration, pulmonary hypertension, and severe pneumonias. In order to provide a child with ECMO support, an operation is performed at the bedside to insert plastic tubes (cannulae or catheters) into blood vessels in the neck. Respiratory failure is the most common cause of death and complications in the newborn. ECMO is only one of the respiratory care therapies offered by the state-of-the-art Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Mattel Childrenís Hospital at UCLA.

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