Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cardiovascular Institute offers advanced ECMO care at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH). Our critically ill patients have a survival rate higher than the national average, according to the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO).
Allegheny General Hospital is one of the best ECMO centers in the country. As an ELSO Center of Excellence, our program received a Gold Level ELSO Award for Excellence in Life Support.
In a healthy person, the heart and lungs work together to circulate blood throughout the body. When these organs are failing, an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine takes over that work. (Extracorporeal means “outside the body.”)
The ECMO pump:
ECMO serves as a temporary, artificial heart and lungs. It is much like a crutch that provides support for a broken leg as the bone mends. Using ECMO lets your heart and lungs rest and heal.
You might need ECMO if you have a very weak heart or lungs, due to a massive heart attack, cardiogenic shock, a long bout of pneumonia, heart disease, or a virus.
ECMO is sometimes a final option for patients. It gives them a chance of survival when all other treatments have failed.
Doctors often refer to ECMO as a “bridge” therapy because it helps a patient move through a crisis. It provides support until the patient is strong enough for the next stage of treatment, which could be:
The ECMO team at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) is led by Robert Moraca, MD. All ECMO patients receive 24/7 medical attention from a team of trained, experienced heart, lung, and critical care specialists. During 10 years of improving ECMO therapy, we are now able to use ECMO at a patient's bedside, where it is quicker and safer.
Patients on ECMO:
If you have a loved one on ECMO, check with the nurse to make sure it is safe to touch and talk to them. Your loved one will be removed from ECMO as soon as it is safe to do so.
Cardiogenic shock means your heart is suddenly weak. It is unable to pump enough blood to get oxygen to the tissues, brain, and organs.
Cardiogenic shock can occur as a result of:
When a patient is in shock, time is of the essence. At AHN, a cardiogenic shock team of specialists acts quickly. Together they:
This process has made huge improvements in helping more patients survive cardiogenic shock.
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