Heart and Vascular Care / Heart and Vascular Programs and Services / Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Program

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Program

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is a national leader in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Our ECMO experts provide life-saving care with a heart-lung machine for people whose serious illnesses prevent their hearts and lungs from working properly. Our ECMO experts work with a team of Vanderbilt specialists to treat your underlying condition.

Conditions We Treat

We treat severe heart and lung conditions, including:

  • Acute lung failure, such as flare-ups of emphysema and asthma
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Cardiogenic shock
  • Heart failure
  • Pneumonia
  • Post-surgery cardiac failure
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Pulmonary hypertension

ECMO Care Team


ECMO: Why Choose Vanderbilt

  • Recognized care: Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute is among the best heart programs in the nation and the top-ranked program in Tennessee, according to U.S. News & World Report. Vanderbilt University Medical Center is ranked the No. 1 adult hospital in Tennessee.
  • Unique expertise: We have provided life-saving ECMO care to children and adults for more than 30 years. Today our program is the largest in Tennessee.
  • Top specialists: Vanderbilt doctors have conducted some of the most important ECMO research and published some of the most important studies about the specialty. Other hospitals look to Vanderbilt to train their ECMO specialists. With knowledge in all configurations of ECMO, our Vanderbilt team can provide the best care for you. 
  • A team approach: Our ECMO teams work with pulmonologists, cardiologists and other specialists to treat your unique condition. Comprehensive ECMO care is available throughout Vanderbilt, not just in the intensive care unit.
  • Innovative techniques: Our ECMO specialists helped develop ambulatory ECMO, which means patients are not confined to bed. Vanderbilt is one of the first hospitals in the nation to allow ECMO patients up and walking. We provide physical therapy so patients can maintain their strength. We also work with medical device manufacturers to develop new technologies, making ECMO safer and more effective.
  • Transport services: We are one of few hospitals in the U.S. and the only one in Tennessee to offer aeromedical evacuation for ECMO patients. If you need advanced care and are far from Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt LifeFlight can bring you here.
  • Access to organ transplant: If heart or multi-organ transplant is the next step in your care, you’re already at the right place. Vanderbilt has the second-largest heart transplant program in the U.S., with patient outcomes among the best in the nation.

Tests, Treatments and Services

ECMO can be used to sustain patients:

  • Waiting for a heart or lung transplant
  • Recovering from illness
  • Considering transplant or other treatment options
  • Having a high-risk surgery or other procedure

Related Programs and Clinics

For Referring Physicians

To refer a patient to the ECMO Program, call (615) 343-9188.