Know The ECMO/ECLS Team Members & Their Roles

The ECMO Team

The ECMO Doctor

A doctor that is called by the intensive care unit when the decision is made for a patient to be placed on ECMO. These doctors have special education and training in the management of the ECMO machine and how the machine affects your loved one. The main job of this doctor is to direct the care of your loved one's ECMO treatment from start to finish. The ECMO doctor may be one of several subspecialists depending on your institution. Examples include: Intensivist, Pulmonologist, or Cardiologist.

Interventional Cardiologist

A doctor who performs ECMO placement, either in the catheterization laboratory or at the bedside. ECMO placement in an adult patient is often a procedure rather than surgery.

The Cardiothoracic (CT) Surgeon

A doctor who performs surgery on the heart and lungs. These doctors may place the cannulas needed for ECMO, especially if your loved one's main problem is a sick heart. This may take place in the operating room or at the bedside.

The Vascular Surgeon

A doctor who performs surgery on veins and arteries. This doctor removes the cannulas needed for ECMO but also assuring patient's legs and arms are receiving enough blood supply and are not damaged by the large ECMO cannulas.

The Perfusionist

An individual who has specialized training and certification in running the heart-lung machine in the operating room and ECMO at the bedside.

The ECMO Coordinator/ECMO Primer

A registered nurse (RN), respiratory therapist (RT), or perfusionist who specializes in the management and operation of the ECMO machine. The coordinator or primer will prepare the machine and tubing when your loved one is first placed on ECMO. In the event of trouble with the ECMO circuit, one of these people will always be available to work with the ECMO specialist to fix the problem.

The ECMO Specialist

A registered nurse (RN), respiratory therapist (RT), or perfusionist who has had special classes and training in running the ECMO machine. One of these people will maybe at the bedside, in the general unit, rounding within the hospital, or on-call 24 hours a day to help manage the ECMO circuit and its effect on the patient. In some centers, your ECMO specialist will also be your loved one's bedside nurse.

The ICU Nurse

A registered nurse that has special skills in caring for very sick patients. One of these nurses will be at the bedside watching the patient, administering medications, and giving your loved one any other care he or she may need. In some centers, your nurse will also be your loved one's ECMO specialist.

The Respiratory Therapist

A registered respiratory therapist that has special skills caring for very sick patients. One of these respiratory therapists will be present to provide breathing treatments and help manage the breathing machine for your loved one.