Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is used for newborns who have very serious lung or heart problems. ECMO is done using a special machine that is connected to the baby. The machine puts oxygen into the baby's blood and takes carbon dioxide out of the blood.
ECMO does what the lungs and heart normally do on their own. This gives a baby's lungs and heart time to rest, develop, and heal.
The ECMO machine connects to your baby with two tubes. One tube takes your baby's blood to the machine. The machine pumps the blood through a special filter that removes carbon dioxide. After it filters the blood, the machine puts oxygen into the blood. It then returns the treated blood to your baby through the second tube.
As a baby's lungs and heart get stronger, ECMO can be used less over time. Your baby may need ECMO for a few days to a few weeks, depending on how the lungs or heart improves.
ECMO does have risks. But the risk to your baby from serious lung or heart problems is greater than the risk of ECMO. Some babies have problems from ECMO, such as bleeding, blood clotting, or infection. There are treatments for these problems.
Seeing tubes and wires attached to your baby can be scary. But these things help the doctor treat your baby. The tubes supply air, fluid, and medicines to your baby. The wires are attached to machines that help the doctor keep track of your baby's vital signs. These include temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, and pulse rate.
It's hard to be apart from your baby, especially when you worry about his or her condition. Know that the hospital staff is well prepared to care for babies with this condition. They will do everything they can to help. If you need it, ask for support from friends and family. You can also ask the hospital staff about counselling and support.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
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Current as of: May 12, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics & Jennifer Merchant, MD - Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine
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