ECMO Program at The University of Arizona Medical Center Receives ‘ELSO Award for Excellence in Life Support’

The UAMC ECMO program exemplifies the distinction of an academic medical center, with its ability to collaborate with many highly-trained subspecialists to provide life-saving care for individuals with extremely complex illnesses—in Tucson and beyond.

The ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) Services Program at The University of Arizona Medical Center - University Campus and Diamond Children’s received the “ELSO Award for Excellence in Life Support” from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO).
This award signifies a commitment to exceptional patient care and demonstrates an assurance of high quality standards, specialized equipment and supplies, defined patient protocols and advanced education to all staff members.
The medical director of the overall program is pediatric intensivist Robyn Meyer, MD, associate professor, Section of Critical Care, Department of Pediatrics. Critical care specialist Yuval Raz, MD, assistant professor, Department of Medicine, is the adult medical director, and cardiothoracic surgeon Jess Thompson, MD, assistant professor, Department of Surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, is the surgical director.
ECMO is a form of advanced life support for the heart and lungs. It is used when a patient is so critically ill that no other support is adequate. A pump circulates blood through a circuit of tubing supporting heart function and through an "oxygenator" which functions as an artificial lung. It is used to help patients of all ages with life-threatening diseases that impair heart and/or lung function. ECMO is often used on patients waiting for heart or lung transplant. Most patients who need ECMO are almost certain to die without this level of support.
“ECMO is a highly specialized and critical procedure requiring a well-trained multidisciplinary team to accomplish,” said Dr. Meyer. “The ECMO circuit is managed on a moment to moment basis by adult and pediatric intensivists and ECMO specialists—ICU nurses who have completed specialized advanced training. Moreover, the ECMO team also includes perfusionists, pharmacists, nutritionists, respiratory therapists, social workers, case managers, blood bank staff and others who are essential to caring for our ECMO patients.”
One such patient whose life was recently saved by ECMO was 3-month-old Bryanna Robles, who nearly died from pertussis (whooping cough). “If it wasn’t for ECMO, Bryanna surely would not have survived,” said Dr. Meyer. (Bryanna’s story can be read here:
The program continues to expand. Previously it utilized only ground transport services, with a radius of approximately 250 miles. More recently, the program added airplane transport services, greatly expanding the number of facilities to which they can offer their service.
Utilizing an airplane, the ECMO team has transported patients from as far away as Flagstaff, New Mexico, New Jersey and Washington.
“We can reach patients in need of ECMO, but are in a hospital that doesn’t have the equipment or personnel necessary to initiate ECMO,” said Dr. Thompson. The ECMO program has developed a rapid-response ECMO team, consisting of a cardiothoracic surgeon, a perfusionist, and an ICU nurse who travel to the facility and initiate ECMO on the patient. The patient is then carefully transported via ground ambulance or airplane back to UAMC for continued treatment. “By partnering with hospitals that don’t have ECMO services, we are now able to offer advanced life-saving therapy to patients that previously didn’t have access to it,” said Dr. Thompson.
 “As one of the busiest ECMO centers in the Southwest, we are routinely consulted regarding ECMO-dependent patients who require advanced organ-failure therapy,” said Dr. Thompson. “Often, ECMO is begun by another facility, and then the patient is transported to our facility because of our capacity to provide transplantation or long-term mechanical circulatory support.”
“This award is truly an honor for our team,” said Dr. Meyer. “We are the only facility in Southern Arizona with ECMO services, and we are committed to providing the best care possible to our patients.”
Release Date: 
07/17/2013 - 6:30am
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