Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

ECMO service at St Bartholomew's Hospital

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) is a specialist life support machine that temporarily replaces the function of the heart or lungs.

Patients who need ECMO may have had heart surgery, a heart attack or attended one of our hospitals with heart failure. The ECMO machine makes sure enough blood and oxygen gets to the brain and other vital organs. It also removes a waste product called carbon dioxide.

Patients who need ECMO are very ill and must be moved to an intensive care unit. We look after all the patients in the one place to make sure all our staff are experienced and skilled in this therapy.

Our ECMO service is based on ward 6A at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. The service cares for patients from across the Barts Health group of hospitals.

In June 2017, the Care Quality Commission inspected St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Their report highlighted that the ECMO service was 'well-governed' and 'safe'.

You can also read how the service was vital to our Covid-19 pandemic response.

Why choose us

St Bartholomew’s Hospital has all the facilities necessary to treat patients with severe heart and lung failure. We have the latest technologies in scanning, robotic surgery and cardiology as well as the doctors, nurses and therapists who specialise in heart and lung disease.

We work to continuously improve the care we provide. St Bartholomew’s is and will always be a place where patients would want to be treated.

We achieve this by:

  • Focussing on cleanliness and comfort
  • Training staff well and assessing our skills regularly
  • Offering the latest technology and medicines
  • Being kind and empathic
  • Listening to families and friends and helping them through a difficult time

We also support patients after they have gone home through our follow-up clinic. Email the service or call 07899 995 159. The clinic is run by consultants, senior nurses and physiotherapists who ensure on-going needs are addressed and answer questions about a patient’s time in intensive care.

Our team

  • Clinical lead: Dr Sachin Shah
  • Lead nurse: Debra Gaffey
  • Matron: Donna Bradburn
  • Lead perfusionist: Phil Gamston

Our research

The research group is led by Professor Mark Griffiths and Professor Charles Hinds. The group is interested in developing therapies to help patients with very severe heart and lung failure. Themes include human models of severe lung failure, the impact of ECMO on patients, and the recovery of patients after a period of severe illness.

Any research we do will have been approved by the hospital and a research ethics committee. We will always discuss studies with patients and their families. If patients and families do not want to be part of a study then we will not include them and it will not influence the care that they receive.

Information for professionals

We are happy to discuss any patient who you feel may benefit from ECMO. The duty ECMO consultant can be contacted 24/7 on 020 3594 0666. The duty ECMO consultant will complete either our cardiac ECMO referral form during the discussion. If you have the information available beforehand that is very helpful.

We provide consultant delivered retrieval for patients and have specialist transfer equipment for patients. If it is necessary to start ECMO before moving a patient then we will do so and move the patient on ECMO.

For referrals call 020 3594 0666 or email the service.

Patients with refractory cardiogenic shock

Cardiogenic shock encompasses a wide range of clinical situations. Outcomes are optimised by early referral. Concerning patients include those who are “sliding on inotropes” with imaging evidence of ventricular dysfunction and the combination of:

Patients with refractory cardiogenic shock

Patient groups that may do well include:

  • Acute myocarditis
  • First presentation of cardiomyopathy
  • Early acute myocardial infarction
  • Refractory arrhythmias
  • Overdose of cardiotoxic drugs
  • Profound hypothermia (<32°C)
  • Pulmonary embolism

After any referral, we activate our “shock team” which can, in 3-4 minutes, create a teleconference between consultant cardiologists (interventional and heart failure), cardiac surgeons, intensivists, anaesthetists and clinical perfusionists. This system works 24/7 and allows us to pool specialist opinions about the best way forward for your patient.

Learning more about ECMO 

We run training courses throughout the year and these are open to external candidates. Our one-day practicum introduces people to ECMO (the CardioHelp from Maquet and a Centrimag based system). The three and five day courses are aimed at healthcare staff who will take significant roles in the day to day care of patients. For more details contact us by email.

We enjoy hosting visitors who wish to see what we do. Please contact us at if you would like to apply for a placement.