The role of echocardiography in the management of patients supported by extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2012 Feb;25(2):131-41. doi: 10.1016/j.echo.2011.11.009. Epub 2011 Dec 9.


Extracorporeal life support can be viewed as a spectrum of modalities based on modifications of a cardiopulmonary bypass circuit to provide cardiac and respiratory support, which can be used for extended periods, from hours to several weeks. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is among the most frequently used forms of extracorporeal life support. It can be configured for venovenous blood flow, to provide adequate oxygenation and carbon dioxide removal in isolated refractory respiratory failure, or in a venoarterial configuration, when support is required for cardiac and/or respiratory failure. Echocardiography plays a fundamental role throughout the entire journey of a patient supported on ECMO. It provides information that assists in patient selection, guides the insertion and placement of cannulas, monitors progress, detects complications, and helps in determining cardiac recovery and the weaning of ECMO support. Although there are extensive published data regarding ECMO, particularly in the pediatric population, there is a paucity of data outlining the role of echocardiography in guiding the management of adult patients supported by ECMO. ECMO is likely to become an increasingly used form of cardiorespiratory support within the critical care setting. Hence, clinicians and sonographers who work within echocardiography departments at institutions with ECMO programs require specific skills to image these patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Echocardiography / methods*
  • Echocardiography / trends*
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation / methods*
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation / trends*
  • Humans
  • Patient Selection
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / instrumentation*
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / methods*