What is ECMO?
Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation provides temporary support for patients with cardiac and/or pulmonary failure. An ECMO machine provides life support to patients whose heart and lungs can’t provide enough gas exchange or perfusion. It completely replaces the function of the heart and lungs to allow the medical team to repair the injury, or in some cases, wait for the heart or lung transplant. ECMO supports blood circulation and provides oxygen to the body, allowing the lungs and heart to rest and heal.
Historically, ECMO has been more commonly used in procedures involving infants and children. However, from 2006 to 2011 there has been a 433 percent increase in use in adult cases. ECMO was used extensively during the influenza H1N1 pandemic of 2009 and has continued to progress, becoming an essential tool for adults and children with severe cardiac and pulmonary cases. SpecialtyCare’s commitment to ECMO services is a response to this growing need, and we continue to evolve our infrastructure for expanding care by developing a structured education program and nurse training program.
When is ECMO Used?
ECMO is used in life-threatening situations. It can be used to support patients who experience heart or lung failure after cardiac surgery or as a bridge for patients awaiting a lung transplant or heart assist device. For infants, these common conditions may require ECMO:
- Severe air leaks
- Critical level high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs (PPHN)
- Meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS)
- Birth defects of the heart
Other adult cases include:
- Acute, life-threatening respiratory failure (Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS), Hyaline Membrane Disease (HMD), Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS))
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN) – a life-threatening condition for a newborn whose blood circulation has not adjusted properly outside the womb. High blood pressure in the arteries forces blood away from the lungs, decreasing the oxygen supply.
- Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) – a birth defect of the diaphragm that puts the newborn in severe respiratory distress. It can lead to life-threatening pulmonary hypoplasia and pulmonary hypertension
- Sepsis – Most commonly seen in older adults or persons with weakened immune systems, sepsis is a complication resulting from an infection.
- Congenital heart disease – an abnormality in the heart that occurs in the womb that can affect the blood flow through the heart. This defect can be simple, where the affected person has no problems or it can lead to life-threatening complications.
SpecialtyCare clinicians specialize in performing two types of extracorporeal life support (ECLS) procedures in and outside the OR:
- Perfusionist-managed care
- SpecialtyCare will set up and monitor the ECLS patient 24/7. This service includes all capital equipment and disposable supplies.
How Long Can ECMO Be Used?
In some cases, ECMO is only used for a matter of hours to support the patient, while in other more severe cases, a patient could be on ECMO for several weeks, up to 25 to 30 days. Long-term ECMO, however, increases the chance for complications.
ECMO Patient Transport
SpecialtyCare, the largest ECMO provider in the US, has significant experience with all modes of ECMO patient transport. Our experienced ECMO Specialist Team can work with you to support safe transport of ECMO patients whether that be ground, rotary, or fixed-wing ECMO transport. We work to ensure the most efficient and effective response time to secure a safe transport for the ECMO patient.
Who performs ECMO?
Perfusionists by nature of their training can perform ECMO services, however, due to the shortage of available perfusionists, we are seeing a number of people in the rapid response team as well as nurses trained to provide this service. SpecialtyCare is growing its training program to meet this need for additional medical professionals to learn this critical service area.
How SpecialtyCare Serves Clients with ECMO
SpecialtyCare is a trusted partner and an industry leader in perfusion services. We understand what it takes to set up an OR that is efficient, cost-effective and staffed properly with the right people and equipment. This knowledge helps us provide the best advice to clients that would either like to establish a new ECMO program or evaluate their current program for improvement. Our staff will provide an assessment and offer the solution that best meets your goals for patient care. If you are a hospital provider interested in discussing how SpecialtyCare can help build your ECMO program, contact us today.
SpecialtyCare offers the following services for ECMO Program development, implementation, management, training, and education:
ECMO Staffing and Management: SpecialtyCare can oversee and manage the ECMO Program for the hospital. We will provide an ECMO Coordinator and the ECMO Specialists needed to set up the infrastructure of the program with guidance, direction, policies, and procedures. Equipment and disposables are available through the SpecialtyCare partnership. We will assist in following ELSO guidelines.
Supplemental ECMO Specialists: For hospitals with an established in-house ECMO Program and team, but needing additional ECMO Specialists, we will provide ECMO Specialists to integrate with shift support where needed.
Listen to Checking the Vitals
In this podcast we dive deep into the healthcare space, from the people that dedicate their lives to patient care to the companies improving patient outcomes through innovation. From well-respected surgeons and thought leaders to those on the front lines of healthcare, we’ll bring you conversations with those making a difference both in the OR and beyond. Through in-depth interviews with nurses, sterile processing technicians, clinical managers, and even healthcare technology companies and startups, we’ll discuss what’s on the horizon in the industry in regards to careers, technology, and innovation.