ExtraCorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) service

Papworth Hospital is one of five hospitals commissioned by the National Specialised Commissioning Team to provide ExtraCorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) to patients with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). This is part of a coordinated national response service to ensure all patients have year-round access to ECMO in England, including the retrieval of these patients from the hospital they are referred from.

This specialist retrieval team is available 24 hours a day to go rapidly to stabilise and retrieve patients referred to the service.

Papworth have developed a solid ECMO service over the last few years and can assist patients with cardiac and respiratory failure. The hospital's clinical expertise is offered to all adult patients with ARDS, a life-threatening condition with high mortality.

What is ECMO?
ECMO is a technique that oxygenates blood outside the body. It can be used in potentially reversible severe respiratory failure when conventional ventilation is unable to oxygenate the blood adequately. The aim of ECMO in respiratory failure is to allow the injured lung to recover whilst avoiding certain recognised complications associated with conventional ventilation. It is high risk and is therefore only used as a matter of last resort in difficult cases. The procedure involves removing blood from the patient, taking steps to avoid clots forming in the blood, adding oxygen to the blood and pumping it artificially to support the lungs.

ECMO is a highly specialised technique, which needs the input of intensive care specialists, cardiothoracic surgeons as well as ECMO-trained nurses and perfusion scientists.

The ECMO service at Papworth
As a tertiary cardiothoracic centre, Papworth Hospital has been providing specialist ECMO services for a number of years. The hospital is registered with the international ExtraCorporeal Life Support Organisation (ELSO) and is renowned for its experience using ECMO for either cardiac or respiratory support.

In addition to providing ECMO on site, Papworth has developed a retrieval service to secure the rapid and safe transfer of patients between referring hospital and the ECMO centres.

Papworth provides the ECMO service to patients in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Essex and North East London. Based on modelling by the National Specialist Commissioning Team who have commissioned the service, Papworth will receive around thirty patients each year but retains the flexibility to increase capacity in response to higher demand.

Papworth will support the national service by accepting patients from the other centres if they reach full capacity.

Related websites
European Society of Cardiology
National Specialised Commissioning Team on ECMO
ExtraCorporeal Life Support Organisation


Endorsed by:


Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Papworth Everard
CB23 3RE

Telephone: +44 (0)1223 639814 / 639821
Email: papworth.cpdevents@nhs.net

Stay In Touch