Oxygen is essential to life, and we can thank the heart and lungs for perfecting its delivery throughout our bodies. But what happens when conditions make these organs both unable to perform their job and not respond to standard life-saving measures in the Intensive Care Unit? That’s when ECMO — extracorporeal membrane oxygenation – can help. ECMO is another advanced treatment available at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) to help patients recover from critical illness and in some cases, injury.
“When other life support methods have not worked, ECMO can help sustain patients with acute respiratory or cardiac failure,” explains Dr. Matthew Prekker, pulmonary/critical care and emergency physician at HCMC. “It essentially bypasses the lungs and or the heart to provide oxygenated blood to the tissues via a pump and special membrane outside the body.”
The ECMO process can also be used to stabilize patients in cardiac arrest by returning the oxygenated blood directly into the arteries leading to the heart and brain.
“Near-drowning, chest trauma, smoke inhalation and even cardiac arrest patients may benefit from this evolving, life-saving intervention,” says Dr. Prekker.
Patients receiving ECMO life support are cared for in the Surgical ICU under the direction of cardiovascular surgeons and critical care physicians.
Patients are monitored continuously by specially trained ICU nurses who collaborate with certified perfusionists and respiratory therapists.
HCMC’s ECMO team cares for patients from hospitals throughout the region, and often accompanies patients during transport to ensure the seamless delivery of care.
“ECMO has received a lot of attention from prehospital and hospital clinicians looking for a novel way to rescue and support a patient when traditional things we do aren’t working, it is developing into a game changer in select patients.”
HCMC has been designated as on the Pathway to Excellence in Life Support by achieving the Silver Level for its Extracorporeal Life Support Program by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO). This recognizes its efforts to provide bedside cardio-respiratory support to critically-ill patients utilizing ECMO.
For more information about ECMO as an alternative strategy for life support for adult and pediatric patients, go to hcmc.org.
Hennepin County Medical Center is a nationally recognized Level I Adult Trauma Center and Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center with the largest emergency department in Minnesota. It is operated by Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc., a subsidiary corporation of Hennepin County. The comprehensive academic medical center and public teaching hospital and clinic system includes a 484-bed acute care hospital, primary care and specialty clinics located in Minneapolis and surrounding suburban communities, as well as home care and hospice services.