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Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation: All that Covid, lung patients need to know | Health

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi

A lot of patients were put on Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) during coronavirus pandemic as the majority of them had lung issues hence, the Covid-19 patients whose lungs were severely damaged had to be put on ventilation support which was inadequate for them as the functioning of the lungs was compromised. Such patients were given the support of ECMO in which the blood is pumped outside the body with the help of a heart-lung machine that is incorporated into an ECMO machine and removes carbon dioxide from the body and gives oxygenated blood back to the tissues in the body.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation: All about ECMO that Covid or lung patients need to know (Photo by Twitter/theoliveranwar)

How ECMO works?

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Aklesh Tandekar, Head Consultant Critical Care at Wockhardt Hospitals on Mira Road, explained, “The blood is drawn from the right side of the heart to the membrane and oxygenated in the ECMO machine which is known as a heart-lung machine. In this machine, the filter which is called an oxygen membrane or oxygenator purifies the blood and supplies the purified blood to the entire body. Here, the lungs and heart can be bypassed so that these organs can take some rest and these machines help the organs to recover quickly.”

He revealed that ECMO is commonly used in intensive care set-ups which is also called as critical care set-ups where the heart and lungs are not working efficiently ( for example- in patients with Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and heart ailments. Dr Aklesh Tandekar elaborated, “These machines are a boon to such patients. It is also used for patients to recover from heart failure or waiting for a heart transplant or even a lung transplant. ECMO machines are a bridge to transplantation. Till these patients receive stable organs from the donor, the ECMO machines will continue giving rest to the heart and lungs. Apart from that, even patients with other conditions such as heart attack, severe myocardial infarction, hypothermia, pulmonary embolism, trauma, sepsis, prevent post-transplant complications, Defect in the diaphragm (congenital diaphragmatic hernia), cardiogenic shock and ones with a bacterial and viral infection and Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle (myocardium) where the heart pumping is reduced can get advantage from these machines.”

How to prepare for ECMO?

According to Dr Aklesh Tandekar, the doctor will decide if you need ECMO or not and put cannulas in the measurement vessels of the body depending upon how long you need to be on ECMO support and it can be taken off it when the patient recovers. Some may need ECMO services for just 3-4 days while some may require for even months until they recover but these services enable healthcare experts to take the utmost care of the patients and help the organs to heal.

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