From tiny newborns to adult size children with life threatening heart and lung issues, there is now a special treatment and team available at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger. This life-saving treatment, known as ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation), is for pediatric patients who meet very specific criteria determined by a multidisciplinary team of specialists.
ECMO is a process in which patients must rely on artificial means to act as their heart and lungs. When a child is put on ECMO, the team at Children’s Hospital is involved in every step of treatment, from surgically implanting catheters to continuous monitoring of the child throughout treatment. This team has spent countless hours training for every possible event or emergency that could occur, said officials. Patients in need of this heart-lung bypass can be on ECMO from hours to weeks at a time. For pediatric patients, this treatment is only available in a high level, dedicated children’s hospital like Children’s Hospital.
“Prior to the development of ECMO in Children’s Hospital, patients had two options,” said Greg Talbott, MD, chief and medical director of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger. “They could either succumb to their illness or undergo transportation to a facility that had ECMO available. Now we can keep these acutely ill children here, and not have to remove them from their community and support systems - or put them in another risky situation by transporting them.”
The financial impact on a family when a child is critically ill is often worsened when extensive travel or relocation is involved. By eliminating the need for transport in certain situations, the ECMO teams remove one high risk situation and allow families to continue receiving the community support they need. The ability to put a child on ECMO also impacts the continuum of care by providing critically ill children patients with another valuable commodity - time, said officials.
“ECMO changes the approach to treatment because we can support a baby or child through a particularly challenging part of life, then fix the issues later when they are stronger,” explained Curt Koontz, MD, pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital. “With ECMO, we are allowing these children to have time to heal, grow strong enough to withstand further treatment and even await a transplant without further deteriorating their bodies.”
There are other advantages to having ECMO at Children’s Hospital. “By getting behind the Believe fund-raising campaign for Children’s Hospital, local residents can provide even more resources for us to build a deeper clinical product for the community,” said Dave Bhattacharya, MD, pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital. “Not only are donors helping build a new facility, they are also enhancing recruitment of new ICU physicians and nurses for our ECMO team - or other specialties – enabling us to provide even better care beyond appendicitis or the flu.”
For more information about Children’s Hospital at Erlanger or the Believe campaign which is currently underway, please visit www.childrensaterlanger.org or www.webelieve.build.