How Does ECMO Work?

Special tubes called cannulas are put into the blood vessels that go directly into the heart or bloodstream. Doctor chooses the size of the tubes. The cannulas transfer the blood from the heart by using a pump to push the blood through tubes to the machine where the blood receives oxygen and the carbon dioxide is removed. Next the blood is warmed to body temperature. Finally, the warm blood goes through another cannula back body.

The following pictures of the ECMO circuit/machine are labeled to help you understand how the blood flows from the body through the cannulas, into the machine and back to the body.

This image shows the various parts of the ECMO machine.

This diagram shows how the oxygenation process works.

This diagram shows a simplified version of how blood is oxygenated and returned to the body.

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