Center for Acute Respiratory Failure and ECMO Program


  • Our center uses ECMO—a machine that works like a temporary, artificial lung—to treat adults with acute respiratory failure.
  • We are 1 of 5 programs in the world to achieve an accreditation as a Platinum Center of Excellence by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO).
  • Anytime, anywhere, we can move our ECMO team to a hospital for emergency treatment and transportation to our center via ambulance or aircraft. We are also available 24 hours for a Critical Care Consultation at 1.800.NYP.STAT for immediate assistance.
  • We are a leading  enter for research in ECMO, including as a treatment for COPD exacerbations or severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, and with novel medications like ketamine as an adjunct. You can contact us at for more information about ongoing and upcoming studies. 
  • In addition to our center for adults, we also have a Pediatric ECMO program for children. 


What does ECMO stand for?

ECMO stands for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation. ‘Extracorporeal’ means the blood circulates outside the body, and ‘membrane oxygenation’ refers to the machine’s ability to deliver oxygen directly to the blood.

What is the goal of ECMO?

The main goal of ECMO is to support the body when the lungs and sometimes the heart are unable to do so. The ECMO machine acts as a temporary, artificial lung and takes over the work of the lungs and heart so the patient can recover. ECMO may also be used for select patients awaiting a lung transplant, allowing them to be more mobile and maintain fitness and physical strength before the transplant occurs.

What medical conditions make someone eligible for ECMO?

The conditions we use ECMO for vary widely, but include severe pneumonia, severe forms of the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), severe asthma (status asthmaticus), pulmonary hypertensive crisis, massive pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs), and various forms of heart failure.

Who determines which patients are eligible for ECMO?

Our dedicated team of ECMO clinicians (including surgeons, critical care physicians, and nurse practitioners) determine if someone is eligible for ECMO.  Each patient’s case is considered on an individual basis.

Who will take care of me while I’m on ECMO?

Everyone on ECMO is cared for by a multidisciplinary team that includes thoracic or cardiac surgeons, critical care physicians, perfusionists (experts in handling the ECMO machine), nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, and physical and occupations therapists who have all been specially trained in ECMO.

Where does the ECMO procedure occur?

The procedure connecting the machine to your circulatory system usually occurs at the bedside or in the operating room.  Our surgeons can place someone on ECMO at a referring hospital and provide safe transport back to our hospital if the patient is too sick to travel without ECMO.

How long will I remain on ECMO?

The length of time on ECMO varies significantly based on the type and severity of the underlying illness, as well as factors such as age and overall health status.  On average, someone with an acute illness needs ECMO for 1 to 2 weeks.

Can my family stay with me while I’m on ECMO?

Our intensive care unit has an open visitation policy – families can visit throughout much of the day and night, except during emergencies and when the nurses are changing shift. We encourage family and friends to visit their loved ones throughout their ICU stay. 

How long has ECMO been used in medicine?

ECMO has been around for decades. The first successful use of ECMO in an adult occurred in 1971. We have used ECMO in our ICU since 1980s.

Are all hospitals capable of performing ECMO on patients?

Not all hospitals are capable of ECMO, because it requires a multidisciplinary, specially trained team with skills and experience. Our center is one of the most experienced in the world and has a comprehensive, specialized program dedicated to supporting patients with ECMO. 

What happens if I’m hospitalized at an institution that is not capable of providing ECMO?

Our ECMO program transfers many patients from referring hospitals. When a referring hospital is treating a patient who might benefit from ECMO, the hospital can call our ECMO team at 1-800-NYP-STAT, where the treating physician at the referring hospital and the ECMO team here discuss the best options for the patient. 

Is ECMO safe?

ECMO is a potentially life-saving, yet complex procedure and is not without risk. When a person is sick enough to require ECMO, often the potential benefits outweighs the risks. Our team is skilled at minimizing the risks of ECMO.

What sets you apart from the other institutions that perform ECMO?

Our ECMO program is one of the most experienced in the country. Our team has been awarded Center of Excellence designation by ELSO (the only national ECMO organization in the U.S.) since our program’s inception. We have published numerous scientific papers on our extensive experience with ECMO transport, as well as our innovative treatment methods and surgical approaches. We remain on the forefront of evolving ECMO techniques and technology, and our clinicians are asked to teach and speak about our program throughout the world.

Is ECMO a cure?

Many people have been saved by ECMO when other treatments have failed, but ECMO is not a cure for the underlying illness. ECMO provides oxygen to the body until the lungs (or lungs and heart) recover.  In other words, the goal of ECMO is to buy time by supporting the patient during the most critically-ill period. 

Who can I contact if I have additional questions?

Clinicians, patients and families can email non-urgent questions to
For referrals, physicians can call 1-800-NYP-STAT, 24/7.

You can also learn more about the ECMO procedure, our ECMO Program and the Center for Acute Resipratory Failure at the site of our hospital partner, NewYork-Presbyterian: