ECMO Advanced Life Support Technology Allows COVID Patients to Heal
As a leading academic medical center offering safe and advanced care, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) provides one of the highest volume ECMO programs in the country. ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) is a technology that takes over the work of the lungs and heart – keeping a patient's blood full of oxygen -- while they heal.
UMMC uses ECMO in the first COVID-dedicated Biocontainment Unit (BCU) in the University of Maryland Medical System for critically ill patients.
Our physicians and nurses have saved the lives of the sickest patients by using ECMO after traumatic injury, organ failure and other life-threatening diseases and conditions.
Now, it is helping patients infected with the novel coronavirus survive.
"ECMO is an extreme type of life support. This technology is not a treatment. It does not fight COVID, but it helps keep the body from further organ failure. It is highly specialized, very labor intensive, and requires specific training, so it is not available everywhere and is only at two hospitals in the state," explains Ali Tabatabai, MD, assistant professor of medicine at University of Maryland School of Medicine and BCU Medical Director.
UMMC is always searching for ways to give patient's own bodies a chance to heal. Currently, there is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect patients in the long term, and critically ill patients with serious lung failure may end up needing a lung transplant.
ECMO allows time for lung healing and lets the team optimize management strategies designed to reduce lung scarring. UMMC's staff is dedicated to finding ways to help patients' lungs heal faster and recover, giving them the best chance for long-term health. ECMO is an important tool in helping reach that goal.