Placing a critically-ill patient on ECMO – extracorporeal membrane oxygenation – requires a multidisciplinary team of extremely skilled staff. At the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), ECMO is available in the Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit (CSICU), the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and the newly opened Lung Rescue Unit. The machine will do the work of the lungs by removing carbon dioxide, oxygenating the blood outside of the body and pumping it back into the patient’s bloodstream until the lungs can heal, or until a suitable donor is found and the patient is able to undergo transplantation.

ECMO is not widely available. At UMMC, teams have worked hard to perfect this care and the hard work has paid off for many patients. UMMC has also earned the ELSO Award for Excellence in Life Support for 2014 from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO), based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The award distinguishes UMMC as a Center of Excellence for care of patients requiring ECMO for heart and lung failure. According to the ELSO Award Committee, UMMC exceeded the average score for other medical centers chosen as Centers of Excellence.

“The award exemplifies what all-hands-on-deck multidisciplinary care can do for extremely ill patients who are precariously balanced between life and death,” says Daniel Herr, MD, associate professor of medicine and medical director of the CSICU. “We have really great teamwork, where everyone has an important role.”

“An ECMO machine serves as a healing device for patients with acute lung failure, oxygenating organs while the lungs can rest and heal,” said Raymond Rector, CCP, LP, perfusionist and ECMO manager. Perfusionists are the professionals who initiate patients on the ECMO machine and maintain their care. Physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, clinical pharmacists and others on the care team have extensive training and experience in this highly specialized technology and bedside care.

“This designation is something to be very proud of,” says Dr. Herr. “In addition to exceeding the expectations of ELSO, our team has also documented improved patient outcomes over the last four years for patients on ECMO. Patients now have a shorter average length of stay and higher survival rates as they recover from these extreme heart and lung ailments.”

To transfer a patient for ECMO care, please call 1-800-373-4111.