How ECMO System Is Useful For Treating COVID-19 Patient?

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The widespread Covid-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2, which stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. This syndrome has resulted in severe respiratory problems and also cardiac issues like a heart attack. The ECMO system is being used in the treatment of covid-19 to battle the same. 

This article focuses on the ECMO procedure, how and when it is used, ECMO treatment cost in India, and the treatment results for Covid-19 patients.

Understanding The ECMO Procedure

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) mimics the lungs and heart workings in the human body, relieving the strain on the patients’ organs. An ECMO system is fundamentally artificial lungs and heart. 

In Covid-19 patients, the oxygen levels drop drastically, and thus, there is a severe oxygen crisis in the blood. In addition, the heart is constantly pumping blood to meet the oxygen level demands of the body, which is lacking. Hence, the lungs and the heart are under immense stress, leading to permanent muscle damage in the organs. 

How Does ECMO Work?

 There are two types of ECMO. The one that supports only the lungs is called veno-venous, while the other type supports both lungs and the heart and is called veno-arterial.

 Patients are first sedated. Next, two tubes are connected from the patient to the machine, which takes in the blood from the patient’s body, oxygenates it, and then sends it back to the heart and lungs. 

 Why Is ECMO Required For In The Covid-19 Treatment?

 Patients of Covid-19 most commonly suffer from hypoxemic respiratory failure at varying intensity and severity levels. However, studies have shown that 50% to 90% of mortality in Covid patients is due to hypoxemic respiratory failure that results in complete lung damage. 

 Cardiac or pulmonary-related complications in Covid-19 patients are the second most common mortality cause. A significant number of patients estimating to be about  7-28%, had an acute myocardial injury when hospitalized. In cases of severe acute myocardial injury, it has worsened the conditions of the patients. 

Hence, both the lungs and the heart are extremely strained when affected by the Covid-19 virus, and ECMO mitigates the strain caused on the organs.

 When Is ECMO Used?

 Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is highly recommended for Covid-19 patients. Covid-19 has the most adverse effect on the lungs and makes it prone to heart damage as the virus also causes inflammation of the heart muscle. 

In addition, fast heart rate and lack of oxygen in the blood, along with increased anxiety in patients, also results in overworking the heart in an already poor health condition. These effects caused by the Covid-19 virus further increases the chances of a heart attack. 

 Therefore, ECMO for Covid-19 is used in the following circumstances:

  • To recover from heart or lung failure
  • Battle increased inflammation of heart muscles
  • Extremely weak lungs 
  • Low oxygen levels in the blood

 How Is ECMO Useful For Covid-19 Patients?

 By providing severely ill patients with the support of all the functions done by the heart and lungs externally, the internal stress on the body reduces drastically. 

Thus, ECMO is a form of life support whose primary function is to provide enough oxygen in the blood for the lungs by imitating the procedure of pumping the heart. In addition, it temporarily compensates for a failing lung or heart by oxygenating the blood. 

 Quality ECMO facilities, experts, and the ECMO treatment cost in India are some factors people look at before getting this treatment. Given that the ECMO procedure is highly technical, very few hospitals in India dispense this service. 

Currently, Max Speciality Hospitals,  one of the leading hospitals in India, provides ECMO treatment at reasonable rates.

 Has ECMO Been Truly Successful For Covid-19 Patients?

 According to recent studies, ECMO has been triumphantly used to save critically Covid-19 patients. The survival rate of Covid-19 patients suffering from related pulmonary complications has significantly improved when treated with ECMO. 

However, the severity of a case at the beginning stage of the procedure determines the outcome. 

 The ECMO technology requires a capable hospital staff and environment. The success rate of this treatment also depends on the availability of adequate resources, patient load, and hospital policies. Moreover, ECMO machines and procedures are expensive. The ECMO treatment cost in India for the initial two days is about INR 2 to INR 4 lakhs.


 ECMO treatment has shown significant improvement in the recovery of Covid-19 patients and in saving lives. But, unfortunately, these machines are imported, and that’s why not abundantly available in India. Very few hospitals avail of this service, one of them being Max Super Speciality Hospitals in the country. 


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