Extracorporeal Life Support Program (ECLS)

Extracorporeal Life Support is an advanced form of support where blood is pumped outside of the body for oxygenation and the returned to circulation.

Respiratory Therapists are often involved in this type of therapy which means that this is an important topic to learn about. Hopefully, this study guide can help make that process easier for you.

Below, we have provided practice questions for your benefit as well. So if you’re ready, let’s get started.


Extracorporeal Life Support

What is Extracorporeal Life Support?

Extracorporeal Life Support is a form of therapy used for providing cardiac and respiratory support to patients who are unable to perform gas exchange or perfusion with their own organs.

It involves pumping blood out of the body into a machine where oxygenation takes place. Then, the blood can be pumped back into circulation in the body.

This is a very serious type of support that should only be used in life-threatening situations where conventional forms of treatment were unsuccessful.

Types of Extracorporeal Life Support:

Here is a list of the types of Extracorporeal Life Support that you should be familiar with:

  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)
  • Venoarterial (VA)
  • Venovenous (VV)
  • Extracorporeal CO2 Removal (ECCO2R)

In general, ECMO is considered to be the most common type of Extracorporeal Life Support. The others can, technically, be classified as types of ECMO.

What is ECMO?

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) is a type of extracorporeal life support that involves pumping blood out of the body through a membrane for gas exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide to occur.

It can be used for the management of severe, life-threatening respiratory failure or cardiogenic shock in patients who have not responded well to conventional types of treatment.

Respiratory Therapists are often involved with this type of treatment although state licensure laws may limit involvement in some states.

Venoarterial Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation

Venoarterial ECMO is a type of extracorporeal life support where venous blood is drained from the patient and ran through the machine for oxygenation. The blood becomes saturated with oxygen and can be returned to the patient’s body via arterial circulation.

This type of ECMO is typically used in patients with cardiovascular failure and provides hemodynamic support. It’s most commonly indicated for the treatment of cardiogenic shock.

Venovenous Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation

Venovenous ECMO is a type of extracorporeal life support where venous blood is drained from the patient and ran through the machine for gas exchange. However, with this type of support, the blood is returned to the patient’s body via venous circulation.

This type of ECMO is typically indicated for the treatment of acute respiratory failure that is due to viral or bacterial pneumonia. Unlike Venoarterial ECMO, Venovenous ECMO provides no hemodynamic support.

Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio
Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio Dr. Rohit Bhaskar, Physio is Founder of Bhaskar Health and Physiotherapy and is also a consulting physiotherapist. He completed his Graduation in Physiotherapy from Uttar Pradesh University of Medical Sciences. His clinical interests are in Chest Physiotherapy, stroke rehab, parkinson’s and head injury rehab. Bhaskar Health is dedicated to readers, doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. Bhaskar Health audience is the reason I feel so passionate about this project, so thanks for reading and sharing Bhaskar Health.

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