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Extracorporeal Life Support

Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS) refers to a therapy that takes over the function of the heart and lungs when these organs need to rest and heal after an illness, trauma, or surgery. A special heart-lung bypass machine is connected to the patient to act as the heart (pump) and lungs (oxygenator). When the heart and lungs recover, the patient is gradually weaned from the heart-lung machine.

How we help

The ECLS program is a therapy for patients ranging from newborns to young adults. ECLS uses advanced life support equipment when the heart and lungs require rest and recovery. The ECLS equipment is similar to the heart and lung machine used by Perfusionists in the Cardiac Operating Room, however, this equipment is portable, modular, and intended for longer term use. It consists primarily of a pump and a circuit made up of a membrane (artificial lung), a blood warmer, and a filter. The machine removes blue blood (without oxygen) from your child and pumps it through the membrane where it receives oxygen and becomes red. The blood is warmed, filtered and returned to your child. ECLS support is established by the surgical placement of large IV-like catheters, known as cannulae, into veins and arteries. The ECLS care team is the PICU care team with the addition of an ECLS Specialist or Perfusionist maintaining the ECLS machine.

ECLS treatment is provided in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit by a specially trained-team of respiratory therapists, nurses, perfusionists, doctors and ECMO specialists (Frequently Asked Questions about Extracorporeal membrance oxygenation (ECMO) Therapy.) Patients requiring the ECLS service are not planned admissions and therefore we'll help provide the items that you’ll need until you are able to bring them from home. 

Who you’ll meet

Our multidisciplinary team includes each of the following dedicated care-givers:

  • Intensivist
  • ECLS specialist
  • Perfusion specialist
  • Nurses
  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Cardiac Surgeon
  • Cardiologist
  • Nutritionist
  • Social Worker
  • Pharmacist
  • Residents
  • Specialists

Accessing this Clinic, Program or Service

Women's/Adult Building -IWK Health Centre

ECLS is a therapy provided in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The PICU is located on the 3rd floor of the link building. If coming into the hospital from the parking garage enter the hospital through the Gallery. Take the first set of elevators to the 3rd floor and follow the signs to the PICU. The PICU is a locked unit and you will need to use the intercom to gain access. Once your child is admitted you'll be given a family pass to allow you access without the intercom.

5850/5980 University Avenue
Halifax, Nova Scotia