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Children's ECMO Program Recognized as Center of Excellence

BIRMINGHAM (Aug. 19, 2013) – The Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) program at Children’s of Alabama has earned the “Award for Excellence in Life Support” and been designated a Center of Excellence by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO.)

A designated Center of Excellence achieves an extraordinary level of patient care through the use of the highest quality care measures, processes, training, education, collaboration and communication. The ELSO Award signifies a commitment to exceptional patient care and an assurance of high standards among caregivers, use of specialized equipment and supplies, defined patient protocols and advanced education of all staff. Children’s ECMO Center was particularly noted for its comprehensive education program for staff.

“We are proud to receive this recognition for our ECMO program and believe it reflects the dedication of our staff to providing the best care possible to these children who are so extremely sick,” said ECMO program director Debbie Laney, MSN, CRNP.

ECMO is the use of a heart-lung bypass machine that is used in critically ill or injured patients to provide oxygen to the blood while allowing the heart and lungs to heal or rest. Most patients requiring ECMO are newborns who have difficulty shortly after birth due to infection, meconium aspiration, congenital diaphragmatic hernia or pulmonary hypertension, cardiac patients, and children suffering from respiratory failure or infections. It is used only after all other medical treatment has failed and the odds of survival without it would be less than 20 percent.

Children’s ECMO Center is equipped with eight machines and staffed by specially trained ECLS specialists including 40 RNs, two respiratory therapists and four perfusionists. The physician team includes pediatric surgeons, a pediatric intensivist and a neonatologist. The staff averages more than nine years of ECMO experience. When the program began in 1987, Children’s was one of the first pediatric hospitals in the southeast to offer ECMO. Since then 642 children have received the treatment, an average of 42 cases per year.

Specialty rooms for ECMO treatment were incorporated into the design of Children’s Benjamin Russell Hospital Building, a 12-story expansion that opened to patients in August, 2012. Located in the NICU, PICU and CVICU, the rooms offer flexibility, privacy and the opportunity for families to stay at bedside.

Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children since 1911, offering inpatient and outpatient services throughout central Alabama. Last year, families made more than 670,000 outpatient and nearly 14,000 inpatient visits to Children’s from every county in Alabama and from 41 other states and four foreign countries. With more than 2 million square feet, Children’s is the third largest pediatric medical facility in the U.S. and has been ranked among the top children’s hospital programs in the country for the past four years by US News & World Report. More information is available at