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ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) Offers Hope When Patients Need It Most

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AdventHealth Pepin Heart Institute ECMO

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is used at the Pepin Heart Institute to save the lives of adult patients who otherwise might not survive. Dr. Rozales Swanson, program administrator and the Surgical Director of Advance Heart Failure and Mechanical Support, explains, “ECMO helps stabilize patients so that they may receive definitive care. It can be used as a bridge to transplant and a bridge to decision. It can also help patients tolerate treatments they otherwise wouldn’t be able to, which improves their chances of survival.”

Access to ECMO is readily available at AdventHealth. We can cover the whole division between Tampa and Orlando, acting as a hub-and-spokes system that centralizes care for multiple hospitals from the east to the west coast of Florida. “Hospitals that don’t have ECMO can stabilize patients and transfer them to us for care. And for patients who require an escalation of care, such as those needing organ transplants, we can facilitate that at AdventHealth Orlando. Working in this fashion, and closely with one another, we cover the whole region,” Dr. Swanson adds. Acceptance for treatment is made at multiple levels through coordinated discussions with the patient, family, referring physicians and ECMO team.

This sophisticated ECMO process — which may be used for patients whose hearts or lungs are too damaged to perform everyday functions — involves diverting a person’s blood to an oxygenating machine, where carbon dioxide is removed and oxygen is infused before returning the blood to the patient. There are two types of ECMO; venovenous (VV) is used for lung support, while venoarterial (VA) is used for cardiac and pulmonary support. Patients with various conditions such as acute respiratory distress syndrome, asthma, aspiration pneumonitis, viral/bacterial/Covid pneumonia, influenza, pulmonary embolism, preeclampsia, heart attack, heart muscle inflammation and advanced heart failure may benefit from ECMO.

Expert and Compassionate Care Sets Our ECMO Program Apart

Bettina Thomas, BSN, RN, is the Director of Nursing: Cardiac, which includes the ECMO program. She’s passionate about providing hope and specially trained nurses to care for patients. And the program has grown in recent years.
“Previously, only one patient could be treated at a time. But today, we can treat more patients with a wide range of diagnoses. I’m very proud of the program,” she shares.

ECMO intervention requires more than equipment. Intensivists and specially trained nurses remain at the bedside around the clock during treatment. Thomas continues, “Our patients become family, and their families become family too. That’s one of the things that sets us apart from other programs.” ECMO may be needed for several months, and having a knowledgeable, passionate and compassionate team is integral to the program’s success and each patient’s wellbeing. Thomas adds, “Patients often keep in touch after discharge, not only through follow-up but also to visit and just say hello.”

Our Outcomes Speak Volumes
The effectiveness of ECMO is evident. It can:
• Sustain patients for an extended period of time, allowing clinicians the additional time they need for assessment, treatment and treatment escalation planning if needed.
• Give diseased or damaged organs time to heal.

And so is its success. Here are our 2022 outcomes:

• The program’s survival rate was 86% compared to the national average survival rate of 49%.
• All survivors were decannulated without the need for additional surgery.

Interested in learning more?

The ECMO comprehensive care team at the Pepin Heart Institute is dedicated to providing the best care available, offering much-needed hope for patients who may not otherwise survive.

For more information or to refer a patient, please call Call813-615-7777 to speak with an ECMO specialist for evaluation.

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