Father holding his infant child's hand in a hospital room

ECMO at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital

Care teams at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital deliver ECMO therapy for infants and children with life-threatening heart and lung conditions.

Peyton Manning Children's Hospital Ascension St. VincentPeyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis provides ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) therapy. It is a therapy that may be used to temporarily take over the job of the lungs, and sometimes the heart, when a child is critically ill or injured. ECMO uses a heart-lung machine that maintains blood flow and oxygen to the vital organs while the heart and or lungs rest and recover. ECMO uses an artificial lung outside of the body to provide oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the blood and a pump to relieve the stress on the heart. ECMO can be very helpful but it is not a cure for a heart or lung condition.

A multidisciplinary critical care team

Your child is cared for by a compassionate team of experienced specialists. ECMO therapy happens directly at the child’s bedside. Every child has 24/7 continuous pediatric intensive care nurses and an ECMO specialist at the bedside. Your child’s care team closely collaborates on your child’s ongoing treatment plan and keeps you informed. Talk with your child’s care team if you have any questions or concerns.

ECMO may be used as part of treatment for conditions that are considered reversible, such as:

  • Airway abnormalities
  • Cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease)
  • Congenital diaphragmatic hernia
  • Congenital heart disease and support after heart surgery
  • Bacterial pneumonia and viral infections, including RSV
  • Flu
  • Inhalation injury (breathing heat, smoke or chemicals into the lungs)
  • Meconium aspiration syndrome
  • Myocarditis (inflammation of heart muscle)
  • Near drowning
  • Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN)
  • Severe asthma
  • Traumatic lung and heart injuries

Frequently asked questions

  • How does ECMO work?

    There are two types of ECMO:

    Venoarterial (VA) ECMO is used when the heart and lungs need support. The blood is drawn from a large vein, then oxygenated and returned through a large artery. This type allows both the heart and lungs to rest.

    Veno-venous (VV) ECMO is used for lung support only when the heart is still working well. The blood is drawn from a large vein, then oxygenated and returned through the same vein or another vein. This type allows the lungs to rest and get better.

    Both types of ECMO provide oxygenated blood to the organs and the body tissues.

  • Why is ECMO done?

    When ventilators and other medications are no longer an option for a child who is critically ill, ECMO may be used.  ECMO can help your child’s body get enough oxygen by taking on the workload of their heart and lungs. ECMO will not heal your child’s heart or the lungs, but it can allow time for them to rest and recover.

  • What happens while my child is receiving ECMO therapy?

    Your child will receive 24/7 monitoring and care, including:

    • Food and nutrition: While receiving ECMO therapy, your child will get all the necessary nutrition, including vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, through an IV catheter or feeding tube.
    • Lab testing: Your child’s care team will collect blood samples from the cannulas that have already been put into place.
    • Positioning: The way your child’s body is positioned will help their lungs heal. Your child’s care team will decide which position is best for your child.
    • Procedures: Sometimes children receiving ECMO therapy need another medical procedure. Your child’s ECMO care team works closely with their other specialists to provide the care needed.
    • Ultrasound: Some children receiving ECMO therapy may need to have ultrasounds of their head to make sure there is not any bleeding inside the brain. Your child may also need an ultrasound or echocardiogram of their heart.
    • X-ray: Your child will have X-rays while they are receiving ECMO therapy, to make sure the tubes stay in the proper position and to allow the doctors to monitor your child’s lungs.
  • What can my family do while my child is receiving ECMO therapy?

    Talk with your child life specialist: Your family can receive support from a child life specialist at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. A child life specialist can help explain the treatment to young siblings, provide support for the entire family, and help your family cope with having a child who is critically ill in the hospital.

    Provide a healing environment: Hearing your voice and feeling your touch can help comfort your child. You can bring your child’s favorite stuffed animal or toy to the hospital. You can even make recordings of your family’s voices or music to play when you are not able to be with your child. Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse about what might be recommended for your child.

Transfer a patient to Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital for ECMO support

Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital provides ECMO support for children across Indiana and surrounding states. If you have a patient who could benefit from ECMO, our transport team can assist in moving your patient to a higher level of care.

Early consultation can help you know when to refer your patient for ECMO. If you have questions or need to transfer a patient to the ECMO program, please call 317-338-1455.

Financial assistance and support is available

If you and your family need help with financial assistance, we can connect you with resources and programs that may be able to help. Our financial counseling team is here to listen to your concerns and work with you to help find options that meet your needs.

Additional family resources

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