Fort Worth – Medical City Fort Worth is among an elite group of hospitals nationwide able to provide extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) therapy for the treatment of severe pulmonary issues and respiratory failure. 

Similar to a heart-lung bypass machine, ECMO is a highly advanced artificial life-support system that takes over circulatory and respiratory functions. ECMO replaces the function of the heart and lungs by oxygenating blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest. The ECMO machine channels the patient’s blood through tubing to an artificial lung, infusing the blood with oxygen and removing carbon dioxide before pumping the blood back into the body. 

“Life-saving ECMO treatment at Medical City Fort Worth provides some critically ill patients with severe respiratory failure an additional treatment option without having to be transferred to another facility,” says Ben Coogan, CEO of Medical City Fort Worth. “This leading-edge technology and the advanced expertise required to provide this critical care is another reason Medical City Fort Worth is the destination of choice for healthcare excellence.” 

ECMO may be used when:

  • The heart cannot pump enough blood to the body
  • A patient’s lungs cannot provide enough oxygen, even when given extra oxygen
  • If the lungs cannot get rid of carbon dioxide, even with help from a mechanical ventilator 

For example, ECMO is used during life-threatening conditions such as severe lung damage from infection, or shock after a heart attack. 

ECMO requires two staff specialists at the patient’s bedside 24/7, as well as a team of surgeons, perfusionists, ECMO nurse specialists, cardiologists, neuro-radiologists, respiratory care practitioners, along with numerous other staff who provide support along a patient's journey of care.

Because of the technology and skill required to use it, only a few hundred hospitals nationwide have the ability to perform ECMO, including Medical City Children’s HospitalMedical City Heart Hospital and Medical City Plano, which have survival rates better than ELSO national ECMO registry outcomes. Additionally, Medical City Healthcare has an advanced ventilation team, able to provide portable therapy and transport from facilities that do not have ECMO capability.

Approximately 60% of the ECMO cases within the Medical City Healthcare system in 2021 were COVID-19 patients.