Pediatric ECMO

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Norton Children’s Hospital is one of the first hospitals in the U.S. to establish an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) program. We were the 10th center in the country to join the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) and have provided ECMO to more than 1,200 patients since 1985. In 2012, we were recognized as an ELSO Center of Excellence and continue to be a Gold Center of Excellence.

What Is Pediatric ECMO?

ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. This means:

  • Extracorporeal – located outside the body
  • Membrane – an artificial lung
  • Oxygenation – used to move oxygen into the blood

ECMO is a machine that can provide life-saving therapy for children with lung and heart failure. ECMO consists of surgically placed cannulas, or tubes, in a child’s large vessels to allow an artificial pump and lung to provide heart support and oxygen to the body.

Reasons for pediatric ECMO support:

  • Congenital heart disease
  • Pneumonia or severe respiratory illness
  • Pulmonary hypertension: Abnormally high blood pressure in the lungs and arteries that supply blood to the lungs
  • Congenital diaphragmatic hernia: A protrusion of the stomach and/or intestines into the chest cavity
  • Respiratory failure
Norton Children’s Hospital is one of the first hospitals in the U.S. to establish a pediatric extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) program.

Collaborative Care for Your Child on ECMO

Our pediatric ECMO team works closely with other physicians and programs within Norton Children’s Hospital and Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. We have a network of outreach diagnostic and treatment services throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

You can draw strength, comfort and confidence from our highly trained specialists, including:

  • Critical care nurses: Your child will have a critical care nurse caring for them at all times while on ECMO.
  • ECMO specialists: Critical care respiratory therapists and other providers are specially trained to care for ECMO patients and maintain the ECMO circuit.
  • ECMO leaders: These critical care nurses, respiratory therapists or perfusionists are trained to run ECMO, including initiating, troubleshooting and responding to clinical emergencies related to ECMO.
  • Intensive care physicians: Board-certified critical care physicians are specially trained to care for patients supported by ECMO including our NICU and critical care teams.
  • Pediatric cardiothoracic and general surgeons: Surgeons have the expertise to place the special ECMO cannulas, or tubes, in a child’s large blood vessels. Surgeons work closely with the intensive care unit team to care for each child while on ECMO.

Why Choose Norton Children’s Heart Institute

  • Norton Children’s Hospital has been a pioneer in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, performing Kentucky’s first pediatric heart transplant in 1986 and becoming the second site in the United States to perform an infant heart transplant.
  • The American Board of Thoracic Surgery has certified our cardiothoracic surgeons in congenital heart surgery.
  • The Adult Congenital Heart Association has accredited Norton Children’s Heart Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program as the only comprehensive care center in Kentucky and Indiana treating adults born with a heart defect.
  • More than 5,000 children a year visit Norton Children’s Heart Institute for advanced heart care.
  • Norton Children’s Heart Institute has offices across Kentucky and Southern Indiana to bring quality pediatric heart care closer to home.
  • The Jennifer Lawrence Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) at Norton Children’s Hospital is the largest dedicated CICU in Kentucky, equipped with 17 private rooms and the newest technology available for heart care.
The Adult Congenital Heart Association has recognized Norton Children's Heart Institute for its expertise treating adult congenital heart disease.

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