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ECMO stands for “extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.” But that’s not important right now. What is important: There’s anecdotal evidence it’s helping patients beat COVID-19.

UCSF-Fresno Dr. Mohamed Fayed is working with colleagues around the globe to study ECMO’s usefulness in a trial.

“Having ECMO in place with this team that can deploy these measures really can save some lives.” — UCSF-Fresno Dr. Mohamed Fayed

Extra Oxygen Into the Blood

The ECMO machine is similar to the heart-lung bypass machine used in open-heart surgery. It pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.

“What COVID-19 is doing is causing inflammation in the lungs, and causing pneumonia,” Fayed said. “This is new to us, the COVID-19 respiratory failure, and having ECMO in place with this team that can deploy these measures really can save some lives.”

One Fresno Patient on ECMO

Fayed described a COVID-19 patient who came from another hospital because she wasn’t responding to treatment there.

“It is very important to us to offer this kind of technology and to offer this kind of team. I think that this is something we should be proud of.” — Dr. Mohamed Fayed

“It’s a tough case … and we deployed the ECMO. This is because she failed her ventilation ventilator,” said Fayed. “She’s still on the machine. We’re hoping to get it off as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we’re just continuing physical therapy and keeping her going.

“It is very important to us to offer this kind of technology and to offer this kind of team. I think that this is something we should be proud of.”

Seattle Doctor With COVID-19 Gets ECMO

Dr. Ryan Padgett, 45, an emergency department physician in Seattle, who contracted COVID-19 related pneumonia in early March.

“You realize there are times in life that it’s completely out of control and you have to put your trust and faith in another person’s hands,” Padgett told The Seattle Times.

On the day he was admitted in critical condition — possibly 24 hours from dying — physicians began ECMO to provide life support to Padgett. The treatment draws blood out of the body, oxygenates it, and delivers it back to the body through tubes inserted into a patient’s groin.

Earlier this month, Padgett returned home, where he is recovering.

Just 202 COVID-19 patients in North America have received ECMO treatment, according to the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization.

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