The role of ECMO in COVID-19: Can it provide rescue therapy in those who are critically ill?

J Card Surg. 2020 Jun;35(6):1298-1301. doi: 10.1111/jocs.14635. Epub 2020 May 22.


Arising from the city of Wuhan, Hubei province in China, a novel coronavirus named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 has been rapidly spreading since its first presentation in late 2019. The World Health Organization declared a pandemic on the 11th March 2020, and as of 29th of April 2020 more than 3 million cases have been reported worldwide with over 225 000 confirmed deaths. Where mechanical ventilation may not be enough, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) could play a role as a form of rescue therapy and may provide beneficial results in the hands of skilled clinicians in centers with experience of using ECMO appropriately in selected patients. Our understanding of COVID-19 is ever-changing and the need for intensive care beds is rising, which means that ECMO will surely play a key role in the near future.

Keywords: COVID-19; ECMO; critical care; extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / therapy*
  • Critical Care / methods
  • Critical Illness / mortality
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation / adverse effects
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation / methods*
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality / trends*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration
  • Male
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Pandemics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Safety / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Selection
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / therapy*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Role
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19