UCI News

Explaining ECMO and how it saves lives

Los Angeles Times, March 12, 2021

March 12, 2021

Explaining ECMO and how it saves lives

When I first heard of a machine that performed this [breathing] function and kept patients, especially COVID-19 patients, alive for weeks, I had to learn more. It goes by the name ECMO — for the process, extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation — and it seemed like something out of science fiction: It was either the height of medical arrogance or truly inspired. … At the time, a young doctor who had helped developed ECMO, Dr. Robert Bartlett, was on the faculty at the newly opened medical school at UC Irvine. He had come west after a residency in Boston, where his mentor, cardiac surgeon Robert Gross, presented him with a challenge.