Heart/lung bypass system used to care for critically ill COVID-19 patients
Hennepin Healthcare’s Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Program recently received the Award for Excellence in Life Support – Platinum Level, the highest designation level given by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO). This award recognizes programs worldwide that distinguish themselves by having exceptional personnel, procedures, and systems in place to support critically ill patients with ECMO while also advancing the exciting science in this area.
Hennepin Healthcare’s ECMO program was also recognized for its excellence in training, education, collaboration, and communication supporting ELSO guidelines that contribute to a healing environment for families, patients and staff.
“ECMO is used to support the heart and or the lungs of patients until their underlying problem has resolved,” explains Hennepin Healthcare’s ECMO Medical Director Matthew Prekker, MD, MPH. “In the past months it’s been an essential intervention for critically ill COVID-19 patients who meet therapy criteria. To receive this prestigious recognition in the midst of an incredibly busy season really means a lot to our team and the entire hospital, and is a testimony to everyone’s outstanding work.”
ECMO is a treatment in which heart and lung function can be supported temporarily – outside the body – using a machine that oxygenates blood, removes carbon dioxide, and pushes oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. It’s often called a “rescue therapy” as it is usually initiated for critically ill patients when all other methods of treatment have failed. Doctors at Hennepin Healthcare can deploy this system in minutes at the patient’s bedside.
“For example, when COVID-19 patients become so ill with pneumonia that we can’t safely support them with a ventilator any longer, we consider all our options to save their life, which includes ECMO support for select patients. Patients with COVID-19 may need to be supported with ECMO for weeks at a time, but there have been a number of cases this year where our patient would have almost certainly died without ECMO,” said Dr. Prekker.
About Hennepin Healthcare’s ECMO Program
Restarted in 2015, Hennepin Healthcare’s ECMO program was designated as a Silver Level Center of Excellence in 2017 and now in July 2020 it achieved Platinum Level, which is the highest designation given by ELSO. ECMO is an essential part of Hennepin Healthcare’s Level I Trauma Center, committed to saving the lives of critically ill and injured patients. For more information, go to www.hennepinhealthcare.org/ecmo.