ECMO Center Karolinska

ECMO – Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation - is a modified heart-lung machine which will oxygenate the blood outside the body through a membrane. Patients with respiratory failure are treated with venous-venous ECMO and patients with cardiac-failure/multiple organ failure are treated with venous–arterial ECMO.

ECMO doctor on-call, ECMO Center, Karolinska,
Telephone: +46 8 123 780 50

Bedside care at ECMO Center. Photo: Rita Bexar

Common diagnoses that might need ECMO-treatment


Meconium aspiration, Sepsis, Congenital diaphragmatic hernia, Pneumothorax or other causes that may lead to decreased saturation.

Children and Adults

Sepsis and septic shock are currently some of the most common diagnoses, Pneumonia (viral or bacterial), ARDS, Myocarditis, Leukaemia (special criteria), Pneumothorax. All other diseases that cause decreased lung and heart function and that are life threatening but where the outcome is expected to be good, if the underlying disease has the time to heal.

Treatment commonly takes between one week to several weeks.
Average treatment time for neonates is 9 days.
Average treatment time for children and adults is 15 days.

ECMO preparation checklist/Contact information


We are always more than happy to give consultations over the phone. Through these consultations we constantly learn more about different patient categories. It is also easier for us to plan potential transports during a calmer stage rather than in a panic situation. Of course there is no cost involved in these consultations. We will make a patient note after the consultation, for this reason we will need the patients name, date of birth, weight etc.

ECMO team on call. Photo: Danish Saroee

Transport of patients to Karolinska

If the patient is too unstable to be transported on a ventilator the ECMO-team will come to you and start the ECMO-treatment in your unit. It usually takes about four to five hours from the time the decision has been made until ECMO-treatment can be started.

When ECMO retrieval involves air transport we will need your assistance in getting transport from the airport in your city to your hospital. This is often easier for you to arrange as you have better knowledge on local transport. We need a big enough transport vehicle that can take four people and 350 kg of equipment. Going back to the airport we need a big enough ambulance that can take us and the patient. It is important that you can load both the pump and the patient together through the same door in the ambulance.

We have a list of preparations that we need you to help us with before we arrive, ECMO preparation checklist.

We try to bring our own scrub/theatre nurse but if we are unable to do so our surgeon will need assistance from one of your scrub/threatre nurses.

For patients that live outside the Stockholm county council a special treatment referral is needed.

For overseas patients we require that the referral center involved provide a commitment of payment for costs related to treatment.


If space is available we arrange for family members to stay in the family rooms here at the hospital. If space is not available in the family rooms, relatives will stay at a hotel or inn near the hospital. We will assist family members with their housing arrangements.