DETROIT, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) – Ascension St. John Hospital announced a new emergency therapy for patients presenting at the hospital in a severe health crisis. The hospital has launched an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation  program through the departments of Cardiology, Cardiovascular Surgery and Critical Care services.

ECMO is an advanced technology that provides life-sustaining support to persons in emergency health situations whose organs are unable to provide an adequate amount of oxygen. For example, ECMO is used during life-threatening conditions such as severe lung damage from infection, or shock after a massive heart attack. This includes people whose:

  • Heart cannot pump enough blood to the body
  • Lungs cannot provide enough oxygen to the body even when given extra oxygen
  • Lungs cannot get rid of carbon dioxide even with help from a mechanical ventilator

“This is good news for the community because ECMO provides an added layer of expert support for serious health emergencies,” said Dr. Amir Kaki, director of Mechanical Circulatory Support who performed the first case at Ascension St. John Hospital. “The ability to escalate care to this level is a major step for our patients with advanced cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary conditions to allow for improved chance for recovery and survival,” he added.

This program not only benefits Ascension St. John Hospital patients, but also allows the provider to receive and care for critically ill patients from other healthcare facilities.

“The ECMO program adds important resources to our cardiopulmonary programs and enhances our ability to care for the most serious patients with life-threatening illnesses to give them the best chance for functional survival,” said Dr. Thomas Lalonde, chief of cardiology for Ascension.

The Ascension St. John Hospital ECMO program is the result of collaboration amongst several hospital departments including the cardiac catheterization lab, critical care, pulmonology, respiratory care, perfusion services, mechanical support, interventional cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, surgical services, and point of care testing.

“The implementation of an ECMO program is a significant advancement for Ascension St. John Hospital and the community at large. Our ability to escalate to this therapy allows us to give the sickest patients the highest level of care available.” said Dr. Kaki.

ECMO therapy may help save a patient’s life, but it does not treat the patient’s disease or injury. ECMO provides a bridge of support to allow the healthcare team to treat the underlying disease process or injury.  Healthcare providers will always work to get patients off the ECMO therapy as soon as possible.

“Some diseases or injuries can be treated quickly and patients only need the ECMO machine for a few hours. Other conditions may take longer to get better, in which case the patient may need the ECMO machine for several days to weeks,” said Dr. Theodore Schreiber, director of Mitral Therapies for Ascension.

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