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ECMO Physiotherapy Network

Extra-Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) is a technique that uses a pump to circulate blood through an artificial lung back into the bloodstream of a patient whose oxygenation is inadequate despite conventional mechanical ventilation. ECMO either

ECMO has been used as a rescue therapy for severe respiratory failure since the 1970s. Following a major randomised controlled trial (Peek et al, 2006) and the subsequent flu pandemics from 2009 onwards, a dedicated UK Respiratory ECMO service was commissioned by NHS England in 2011.

The six UK centres commissioned to provide adult Respiratory ECMO support are:


  • Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust
  • Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Foundation Trust
  • University of Manchester NHS Foundation Trust
  • NHS Grampian - Aberdeen Royal Infirmary**                   
  • Barts Health NHS Trust**                                                     
  • The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust**

               **(Surge Centre)

A network map of referral areas and contact details for each centre within the UK can be found at the bottom of the page.


Further information may be found using the links below:

NICE IPG391 Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for severe acute respiratory failure in adults

NICE IPG482 Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for acute heart failure in adults

NHS England

Cochrane Evidence


ECMO Physiotherapy Network

Physiotherapy leaders from the six UK centres have formed the ECMO Physiotherapy Network. Biannual meetings take place for peer support, sharing of best practice, and governance activity including audit and research.

Physiotherapists who occasionally encounter ECMO - for example those working in transplant centres - are also welcome to participate in the group.

Physiotherapists provide both rehabilitative and respiratory physiotherapy interventions to patients during and after ECMO support.

You can also follow the ECMO Physiotherapy Network on Twitter @ECMO_physio or join in discussions using #ECMOPT or email:

A number of resources have been developed by members of the ECMO Physiotherapy Network available to download using the links below: 

To access additional resources please use the link below (member log-in required):

Additional ECMO resources

Links to useful resources and articles:

Physiotherapy for Patients on Awake Extracorporeal membrane Oxygenation: A Systematic Review. Physiotherapy Research International. Polastri, M., Loforte, A., Dell’Amore, A. & Nava S. 2015. 21(4), 203-209.

Physiotherapy on ECMO: Mobility and beyond. Morris, K. & Osman, L. 2017. Qatar Medical Journal, Volume 2017, Issue 1 - Extracorporeal Life Support Organisation of the South and West Asia Chapter 2017 Conference Proceedings, DOI:

Early physiotherapy in the clinical course of patients on Veno-Venous Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation. Bonizzoli, M., Lazzeri, C., Drago, A., Tadini Boninsegni, L., Donati, M., Di Valvasone, A., Pesenti, A. & Peris, A. European Respiratory Journal 2018 52: PA1415; DOI: 10.1183/13993003.congress-2018.PA1415

Safety and potential benefits of physical therapy in adult patients on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support: a systematic review. Ferreira DDC; Marcolino MAZ; Macagnan FE; Plentz RDM; Kessler A. Revista Brasileira de terapia intensiva; May 2019; vol. 31 (no. 2); p. 227-239

Effects of a physiotherapic program in patients on veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation: an 8-year single-center experience. Bonizzoli M; Lazzeri C; Drago A; Tadini Boninsegni L; Donati M et al. Minerva anestesiologica; Sep 2019; vol. 85 (no. 9); p. 989-994

Acute skeletal muscle wasting and relation to physical function in patients requiring extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Hayes K; Holland AE; Pellegrino VA; Mathur S; Hodgson CL. Journal of critical care; 2018; vol. 48 ; p. 1-8