The purpose of this review is to examine the indications of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This technique of oxygenation has significantly increased worldwide with the H1N1 flu pandemic. The goal of ECMO is to maintain a safe level of oxygenation and controlled respiratory acidosis under protective ventilation. The enthusiasm for ECMO should not obscure the consideration for potential associated complications. Before widespread diffusion of ECMO, new trials should test the efficacy of early initiation or CO2 removal in addition to, or even as an alternative to mechanical ventilation for severe ARDS.