Fulminant pulmonary embolism (PE) with circulatory collapse is associated with a high mortality rate due to acute right ventricular failure and hypoxia. Immediate and appropriate resuscitation and circulatory support in the perioperative period is mandatory to prevent sudden death. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) was recently introduced for extracorporeal life support in patients with circulatory collapse and has provided an excellent outcome. We report on the effectiveness of ECMO support for fulminant PE. Seven patients were placed on veno-arterial ECMO for circulatory collapse caused by fulminant PE refractory to conventional treatment. After resuscitation, all patients underwent pulmonary angiography, and thrombolytic therapy was administered in all 7 patients under ECMO support. Three patients who did not improve by thrombolysis underwent embolectomy with standard cardiopulmonary bypass. Two thrombolysis and 2 surgery patients were weaned from bypass and survived. The duration of support ranged from 18-168 h (mean = 67.8 +/- 67.1 h), with maximum bypass flow rates of 2.0-4.5 (mean = 3.5 +/- 0.9). There were no device-related complications during support. In total, 4 patients (57%) were successfully weaned from support and discharged from the hospital in good condition. All patients who survived required prolonged support (27, 82, 151, and 168 h). We conclude that resuscitation and circulatory support using ECMO can be effective, life-saving measures in cases of circulatory collapse caused by fulminant PE.