Background Worsening of lung function in patients awaiting lung transplantation can lead to ventilation-refractory hypoxemia or hypercapnia and respiratory acidosis. This report describes the successful use of different extracorporeal circulatory systems as a bridge to transplantation at remote centers. Methods Between January 2003 and December 2009, we had 10 requests for implantation of extracorporeal circulatory systems (pumpless extracorporeal lung assist [PECLA] or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation [ECMO]) in patients decompensating on the waiting list to bridge to transplantation at three different transplant centers between 150 km and 570 km apart. Cannulas were inserted percutaneously with Seldinger's technique. Results The median patient age was 36 years (range, 24 to 53). Three patients were supported with PECLA and 7 with ECMO. The median duration of support was 23 days (range, 5 to 73). Two patients were initially provided with ECMO and then changed to PECLA after hemodynamic stabilization in the face of persisting pulmonary failure. Two patients died of multiorgan failure on ECMO while on the waiting list. One PECLA patient was successfully weaned and waiting for LTx. Before transplantation, 5 patients (4 PECLA and 1 ECMO) were successfully weaned from mechanical ventilation, and 3 PECLA patients were successfully weaned from the system. Seven patients were successfully bridged and transplanted. Five of 7 patients were discharged from the transplant centers. Conclusions This report suggests that implantation of extracorporeal circulatory systems is a safe method to bridge patients decompensating on the waiting list for transplantation. Support intervals of several weeks are possible.