It is effective for those children with severe, but reversible, heart or lung problems who have not responded to treatment with a ventilator, drugs, or extra oxygen.
Therapy is designed to make the patient more comfortable (pain medications and hot packs to soothe the muscles), and intervention if the muscles responsible for breathing fail (for instance, a ventilator to take over the work of breathing).
While it is extremely common for premature babies of all ages to be placed on a ventilator, babies who aren't as mature may need help breathing for longer periods of time.
After the child is stable on ECMO, the breathing machine settings are lowered to "rest" settings, which allows the lungs to rest without the risk of too much oxygen or pressure from the ventilator.
Some infants are placed on a ventilator to help them breathe, and some receive transfusions of platelets, which help the blood clot when there is internal bleeding.