an ECMO machine with doctors and nurses all around it in the operating roomThe Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Program at Inova Heart and Vascular Institute and Inova Children’s Hospital provides life-saving support to adults, children and neonates with severe cardiac or respiratory failure.

What is ECMO?

ECMO is a modified form of cardiopulmonary bypass which can provide temporary support of lungs and heart to patients who are failing conventional treatments. It is a form of advanced life support used for patients who are critically ill.

ECMO does not cure underlying disease. It provides time for the patient to recover, or potentially be bridged to a long-term support device, receive a transplant, or for the family and team to make decisions about their loved one’s future.

Patients who benefit from ECMO

The ECMO program at Inova Heart and Vascular Institute has supported patients with a variety of illnesses and conditions:

  • Cardiac arrest and/or myocardial infarction
  • Heart failure / patients awaiting heart transplant
  • Lung failure 
  • Blood clots in the lung / pulmonary embolus
  • Pneumonia
  • Influenza
  • Postoperative heart surgery
  • Shock from infection
  • Trauma
  • Heat stroke
  • Poisoning
  • Poor oxygenation (from newborns to adults) such as lung failure from pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, and chronic lung disease

"Awake and walking ECMO"

The Inova team pioneered "awake and walking ECMO," allowing patients to be mobile when usually they are sedated under life support. This is beneficial to the patient as it results in more stable circulation, stimulation of spontaneous breathing, a larger quantity of air inhaled, and communication with the staff and family.

Inova is ready for ECMO patient transfers

Our integrated EPIC electronic medical record allows other Inova hospitals to help identify and transfer patients. Inova can also provide transport for patients from other hospitals. In addition to patients in immediate need of ECMO support, eligible patients may also include those already receiving support who need to be transferred to a larger center for transplant consideration or other reasons.

Referrals for ECMO treatment

To speak with a specialist about an ECMO referral, please call Inova's Cardiac Access line at 703-776-5905. To learn more about the Inova Children's Hospital ECMO program, visit To transfer a patient using the Inova Children's Hospital Ambulance and One Call Transport, please call 1-877-900-9543.

Inova Heart and Vascular Institute Experience

The Inova Heart and Vascular Institute facility on the Inova Fairfax Medical Campus houses our ECMO program.

Referrals from centers throughout the Mid-Atlantic region have been transported to Inova for, or even on, ECMO support. Inova Heart and Vascular Institute’s capabilities cover the full spectrum of complex cardiovascular and pulmonary care.

Inova’s expansion of ECMO from support of postoperative cardiac patients began in 2016. The program now encompasses over 41,000 hours of support to critically ill children and adults. In 2018, 83 patients were supported with ECMO, and in 2019 we are on pace to support over 100 patients.