ECMO glossary

Terms related to extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)

ACT - Activated clotting time
A blood test to see how long blood takes to form a clot.
Albumin
A type of blood product that can help when the ECMO machinery or patient needs more fluid or has a low blood pressure.
Arterial blood gas or ABG or blood gas
Results from a blood test that show the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood.
Bronchoscopy or bronch
A procedure where the physician inserts a special microscope into the lungs using a breathing tube or trach tube. With this tube you can see how the lungs are healing, clean them, and remove mucous and infection.
Cannula (singular) and cannulae (plural)
The plastic tubes that are placed into blood vessels. They bring blood to the ECMO machine and return blood back to the body.
Cannulation
Putting a cannula inside a vessel. This can be done through a very small cut in the skin.
Carotid artery
One of two main blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. The right one is commonly used for ECMO.
Circuit
The tubing, the ECMO pump, the oxygenator, and the heater.
Decannulation
The process of removing a cannula from a blood vessel.
Dialysis, CRRT, CVVH, CVVHD, or SCUF
A treatment that removes fluid and waste from the blood, sometimes referred to as an artificial kidney.
Dobhoff tube or feeding tube or gastric (GI) tube
A small tube in the nose or mouth that ends in the stomach so patients can receive medications and liquid nutrition.
Echocardiogram or echo
A live picture of the heart. It can show how the heart is working.
ECLS
Extracorporeal life support
ECMO
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
ECMO flow
The amount of blood taken out and returned to a patient.
ECMO pump
The machine that moves or pumps the blood around the circuit and back into the body. Sometimes referred to as an artificial heart.
ECMO specialist
A specially trained nurse or respiratory therapist who manages the ECMO system.
Endotracheal (ET) tube
A tube inserted through the patient’s nose or mouth into the trachea to help with breathing and suctioning.
Head ultrasound
A special machine that uses soundwaves to harmlessly take pictures of the brain in babies.
Heparin
A medication that thins the blood and makes it harder to clot.
Membrane oxygenator
The artificial lung that puts oxygen into the blood and removes carbon dioxide.
Percutaneous cannulation
Placing cannulae into the blood vessels. This type of cannulation is similar to placing an IV. There is no surgical incision.
Platelets
A type of blood product that helps keep the blood within the ECMO machine from becoming too thin.
Plasma
A type of blood product that helps keep the blood within the ECMO machine from becoming too thin.
Prone positioning
Refers to positioning the patient on the stomach for a period of time.
Trachea
Commonly known as the wind pipe, it is the airway to the lungs.
Tracheostomy or trach or trach tube
A shorter breathing tube that has been surgically placed through the front of the neck into the trachea (wind pipe).
Trial off
When the patient has made some improvement the physicians may want to “trial off” to see how the patient will do without ECMO. This means the ECMO circuit is temporarily clamped or disconnected.
Urinary “foley” catheter
A tube inserted into the bladder to drain and measure urine.
Ventilator
A machine used to support the patient in their own breathing or give the patient breaths.
Venous-arterial (V-A) ECMO
A type of ECMO used to support both heart and lung function. Blood drains from a vein and returns to the body via an artery.
Veno-venous (V-V) ECMO
A type of ECMO used to support lung function only. Blood drains from a vein and returns to the body via a vein.
Last reviewed: 
June 2017

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