Now providing ECMO

Christ Hospital uses 'external lung' to help COVID-19 patients

Christ Hospital has two COVID-19 patients on ECMO who are currently doing well.
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Christ Hospital has two COVID-19 patients on ECMO who are currently doing well.

In its latest life saving measure, Christ Hospital  is now providing Extracorporal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) therapy for the treatment of COVID-19 patients who are experiencing respiratory failure.

Many COVID-19 patients die of respiratory failure despite the use of ventilators to provide oxygen and positive pressure.

ECMO will serve as an “external lung” to these patients by bypassing the failing lungs.

The machine pumps, oxygenates, and removes waste from a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest, before propelling blood back into a patients body. Oxygen is thus supplied to oxygen starved organs, which will help prevent multiple vital organs from early failure.

COVID-19 patients suffer from a large number of kidney injuries due to hypoxia, or tissue oxygen deprivations, because kidneys are very sensitive to oxygen levels in the body.

‘Every life matters’

Dr. Achintya Moulick, a cardiovascular surgeon and Chief Transition Officer of the CarePoint Health system, has an extensive history of providing ECMO to patients of all ages and feels strongly that the same ECMO principles could be applied to COVID-19 patients faring poorly on ventilators alone.

“With the addition of ECMO at Christ Hospital we can change the paradigm of care,” Moulick said. “We need to afford every possible chance to patients available in advanced quaternary care hospitals at the community hospital level in this emergency situation. Every life matters.”

The hospital adopted a multidisciplinary approach using the guidelines provided by the Extra Corporeal Life Support Organization as well as consulting experts from other parts of the country.

Two COVID-19 patients at Christ Hospital were placed on ECMO, on May 12 and May 14, and both are doing well.

The team that put the patients on ECMO included Dr. Michael Benz, Dr. Chaudhry Aman, Dr. Christos Stavropoulos and Dr. Sekar Natarajan.

“Thanks to the vision of Dr. Moulick we now have a new tool in our fight against the COVID virus,” said Christ Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tucker Woods. “Our medical staff is thrilled to be offering this advanced medical technology that is not generally associated with community hospitals, but this highlights how we have always lead with innovation.”

The reported success of patients coming off ECMO is 50 percent, higher than with ventilation alone. Many patients on ECMO would not have otherwise survived.

Transfer center

Christ Hospital is the only hospital in Hudson County to offer ECMO for COVID-19 patients, but CarePoint Health feels this could be a beneficial service that should be made available to all surrounding hospitals.

It has set up an ECMO hotline that other hospitals can call by dialing 1-877-CPH ECMO.

An ECMO consultant on the hotline will take the details and arrange for a patient transfer to Christ Hospital.

Chief Hospital Executive of Christ Hospital Marie Duffy said, “Because we are now developing expertise with treating COVID patients with ECMO, the natural next step was to become a transfer center to make these services available to other patients”.

Christ Hospital has received one ECMO transfer since starting its program.

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.