The ECMO Team
The ECMO DoctorA 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
Interventional CardiologistA 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
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 SurgeonA 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 PerfusionistAn 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 PrimerA 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 SpecialistA 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 NurseA 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 TherapistA 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.