Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a mutli-disciplinary protocol used to manage critically ill patients with advanced respiratory failure, cardiac failure, and multiorgan failure using cutting-edge technologies. ECMO is administered by intensivists and cardiac surgeons, with the support of specially-trained nurses and respiratory therapists.

ECMO is a serious intervention reserved for patients with:

  • Severe hypoxemia (e.g. PaO2/FiO2 < 200 mmHg)
  • Severe hypercapnic acidosis (e.g. pH < 7.20 ml/Kg predicted body weight, plateau pressure < 30 cmH2O)
  • Inability to achieve lung protective tidal volumes and pressures (tidal volume < 6 mL/Kg predicted body weight, plateau pressure < 30 cmH2O)
  • Consideration of and/or failure to improve with adjunctive therapies such as prone positioning or paralysis
  • Significant air leak/bronchopleural fistula
  • Murray score ≥ 2.0

While ECMO is a serious intervention, it is also one of the only cardiac and respiratory support systems available that can oxygenate blood and remove carbon dioxide in critically ill patients.

Program Information

Working closely with National Jewish Health, Saint Joseph Hospital is the only hospital in the SCL Health system and one of only a handful of facilities in the Denver area to offer ECMO. The ECMO program is a combination of the latest technologies and unique multidisciplinary expertise to provide advanced cardiopulmonary support for patients needing life-saving intervention. In 2020, the use of ECMO produced positive results for patients with life-threatening COVID-19 infections and resulted in Saint Joseph Hospital serving as a regional referral center for the sickest of the sick.

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