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Our aim was to describe patient characteristics and trends in the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in the United States from 2006 to 2011.We used the Nationwide Inpatient Sample to isolate all patients aged 18 years who had a discharge International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision diagnosis of ARDS, with and without procedure codes for ECMO, between 2006 and 2011.We examined a total of 47 911 414 hospital discharges, representing 235 911 271 hospitalizations using national weights. Of the 1 479 022 patients meeting the definition of ARDS (representing 7 281 206 discharges), 775 underwent ECMO. There was a 409% relative increase in the use of ECMO for ARDS in the United States between 2006 and 2011, from 0.0178% to 0.090% (P = .0041). Patients treated with ECMO had higher in-hospital mortality (58.6% vs 25.1%, P < .0001) and longer hospital stays (15.8 days vs 6.9 days, P < .0001). They were also younger (47.9 vs 66.4 years, P < .0001) and more likely to be male (62.2% vs 49.6%, P < .0001). The median time to initiate ECMO from the time of admission was 0.5 days (interquartile range [IQR] 4.9 days).There has been a dramatic increase in ECMO use for the treatment of ARDS in the United States.