Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) does the usual work of our lungs and/or heart, giving them enough rest & aiding their recovery when patients fall terribly sick.
As per the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO), the ECMO technique can save nearly half the critically ill COVID-19 patients for whom ventilators may not be effective.
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is basically an artificial lung or heart. For those who have undergone a traumatic injury, organ failure and/or are suffering from other life-threatening diseases and conditions, ECMO takes over the work of lungs and/or heart, thus keeping a patient's blood full of oxygen, helping him heal. Using ECMO, the lives of the sickest patients can be saved.
ECMO works by drawing blood from the body temporarily, thereby allowing artificial oxygenation of the red blood cells and simultaneous removal of carbon dioxide via a machine.
There are 2 types of ECMO – veno-venous (lung support) and veno-arterial (lungs and heart support). Between 1-3 cannulas are used to connect the ECMO circuit to a patient. For this, a small cut is made, generally on the neck’s right side, thereafter a tube is fed through the cut into the jugular vein. A second tube may be passed through the same cut into the carotid artery. These tubes are then connected to a machine that oxygenates the blood.
Being highly specialized and labour intensive, ECMO is not available everywhere. With our team of highly specialized and experienced doctors, we at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad have been providing this life-saving technology to our patients. Our team of doctors possess all requisite skills and expertise required to operate this machine successfully. This gives us an edge over other hospitals which may require years of training in preparing the right team to use ECMO along with making available the right equipment and know-how to implement this technology.
ECMO is an extreme type of life support. However, it is important to know that this technology does not provide the ultimate COVID-19 treatment, i.e., it doesn’t fight covid rather helps prevent the body from undergoing any further organ failure.
It is also important to understand that ECMO is not for every COVID-19 condition; we have to determine those covid patients on whom this therapy can be administered. For instance, a 70-year- old patient suffering from covid with co-morbidities like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity may not be a good candidate for this technology. However, for a 35-year-old COVID-19 patient with no such conditions, ECMO may be very helpful.
Despite not being the miracle cure for COVID-19, it is heartening to know in case the ventilators fail, we have ECMOs to fall back on. For 55% of the COVID-19 patients on whom no other treatment was working, ECMO proved to be fairly effective. When we think of the therapies that have succeeded in curing covid survivors, ECMO has proven to be a life-saving technology for many patients, giving them a second life.