ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation)

The ECMO service at St Bartholomew’s Hospital cares for patients with severe heart and lung failure throughout our hospitals. 

ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) is a specialist life support machine that can temporarily replace the function of the lungs or heart. 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 get to a patient’s brain and other vital organs. It also removes a waste product called carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, not every patient with severe heart or lung failure is suitable for ECMO. 

Patients who need ECMO are always very ill and must be moved to an Intensive Care Unit (Ward 6A) in St Bartholomew’s Hospital. We look after all the patients in the one place to make sure all our staff are experienced and skilled in this therapy. 

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

Key people

  • Clinical lead: Dr Sachin Shah
  • Lead nurse: Debra Gaffey
  • Matron: Neil Anderson 
  • Lead perfusionist: Phil Gamston 

Contact us

Why choose us

We give the very best to care to all of our patients. St Bartholomew’s Hospital has all the facilities necessary to treat patients with severe heart and lung failure. We have the very latest technologies in scans, 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 how clean and comfortable it is
  • Having staff that are well trained and whose skills are regularly assessed 
  • Offering the latest technology and medicines to patients
  • Being kind and empathic to patients
  • Listening to families and friends of patients and helping them through a difficult time

We also support patients after they have gone home through our follow-up clinic: bartshealth.icuclinic.sbh@nhs.net or call 07899 995 159. The clinic is run by consultants, senior nurses and physiotherapists who try to make sure any on-going needs are addressed and answer questions about a patient’s stay in the Intensive Care Unit.

For clinicians

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.

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 at ecls.bartshealth@nhs.net  

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

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.