Extracorporeal life support has evolved considerably over the past two decades. Once considered as salvage or experimental therapy in adults, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is evolving into a mainstream treatment for adult critical care. This is especially true in trauma and high-risk surgical patients, who have traditionally been excluded from consideration. Several technological advances have made this possible. This includes anticoagulant-bonded circuits, device miniaturization, servo-regulated centrifugal systems, and more efficient oxygenators. Adult ECMO may now be rapidly deployed for severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and cardiogenic shock. Trauma and surgical patients with severe ARDS should be considered for ECMO early in their clinical course to provide optimal lung rest.
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