The Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) program at Children’s of Alabama uses a heart-lung bypass machine to help critically ill or injured patients 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 24 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 ECMO program recently 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.