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Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

Adult & Neonatal/Paediatric UK ECMO centres
Adult & Neonatal/Paediatric UK ECMO centres

ECMO is used when a patient has a critical condition which prevents the lungs or heart from working normally.  The ECMO machine is very similar to heart and lung machines used during open-heart surgery.  It is a supportive measure that uses an artificial lung (the membrane) to oxygenate the blood outside the body (extracorporeal).  

This therapy was developed in the USA by Robert H. Bartlett M.D. who took his inspiration for extracorporeal organ support from the heart and lung machine.  The first successful ECMO treatment of an adult was in California in 1971.  The first neonatal survivor of this new and pioneering treatment received ECMO in 1975.  Having been inspired and convinced of the merits of ECMO, in 1989 the therapy was introduced to the UK by Richard Firmin and Andrzej Sosnowski, based at Glenfield Hospital (then Groby Road Hospital).  This treatment was generously supported by Heart Link Children's Charity and to this day Heart Link are an integral part of the service.

Glenfield Hospital has since become one of the world’s busiest extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) centres and the only hospital in the UK to provide ECMO therapy for both adults and children.

Glenfield Hospital is registered with the Extracorporeal Life Support Organisation (ELSO) and is one of the world's most experienced hospitals in using ECMO.  Glenfield Hospital offers a specialist training course for national practitioners and people from overseas; many attending from Europe and as far as the Middle East, Asia and Australia.

There are five adult ECMO centres in the UK.  They are:

- Glenfield Hospital: Leicester
- Papworth Hospital: Cambridge
- Wythenshawe Hospital: Manchester
- Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospital: London
- Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospital: London

Each of the centres cover a defined geographical area (see picture to the right) and a number of established critical care networks exist.  The five centres work in close collaboration to ensure an excellent, safe and efficient service is provided to all areas of the UK & Northern Ireland.

There are four paediatric ECMO centres in the UK.  They are:

- Glenfield Hospital: Leicester
- The Freeman Hospital: Newcastle
- The Royal Hospital for Sick Children: Glasgow
- Great Ormond Street Hospital: London

The paediatric centres have all been performing ECMO for more than 20 years and through regular collaboration and review maintain the highest standards of paediatric ECMO.