Things to know about ECMO Treatment

ECMO is similar to the heart-lung by-pass machine used in open-heart surgery

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Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), also known as extracorporeal life support (ECLS) is similar to the heart-lung by-pass machine used in open-heart surgery.

It provides prolonged cardiac and respiratory support to persons whose heart and lungs are unable to provide an adequate amount of gas exchange or perfusion to sustain life.

What is ECMO treatment? 

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) or extracorporeal life support (ECLS) is a treatment that maintains the cardiac and respiratory system and provides constant life support to a person with lung and heart ailments. This is done with the help of an artificial lung or a membrane oxygenator. The technology has been highly influenced by cardiopulmonary bypass, which provides short term support in a similar way.

ECMO extracts the blood and removes carbon dioxide from the body allowing the artificial oxygenator of the red blood cell to activate. ECMO in Covid is a noteworthy achievement. It is used for patients who are diagnosed with viral pneumonia as a comorbidity, where an artificial ventilator is not enough to survive the patient.

Facts about ECMO – 

ECMO is not an easy implementation – Although there are 500 global facilities where ECMO is implemented, it takes several years and months to learn how to implement it. Hence the focus of ECMO treatment is not enlarging the use of ECMO treatment around the globe but to increase the capacity of the already existing ECMO centres. ECMO in Covid is being very helpful as well. Although according to the doctors the ECMO will not be helpful for all patients with comorbidity. If a 70 year old is down with diabetes, blood pressure, sugar and has Covid 19, EMCO will not be able to help. On the other hand, it can be helpful to a 40 year old who is healthy but got stuck down by heart problems.

ECMO is expected to grow rapidly – ECMO has been used for patients with cardiac problems for decades now. Earlier it was only used in children, now it has expanded its outreach to adults too. Doctors say that it is used more in the last 5 years than the in the 30 years of pediatrics. The demand of ECMO is rapidly growing and with Covid-19 being added as a deadly disease, ECMO is proving to be a lifesaver for many. It reassures even after the ventilator has failed, it can still be an option.

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Risks on ECMO

The healthcare takers have always aimed to make the treatment smoothly without any complications. Yet some of the problems that might occur during ECMO treatment are :

Bleeding – The ECMO treatment requires patients to go through blood thinning medication, and this might lead to bleeding in different parts of the body. It can be a serious issue if the bleeding happens in stomach, brain, lungs or insertion sites of cannula. Medications are given to un clot the blood and sometimes surgeries are done to stop the bleeding.

Kidney failure – During an ECMO treatment, blood might stop flowing into the kidney which can lead to “acute renal failure” or kidney failure in layman’s terms. If the kidney stops working, the patient is connected to a machine called “dialysis”. In most cases the condition improves, in case it doesn’t he or she will need dialysis for the rest of his or her life.

Leg damage – Sometimes the ECMO machine is connected to the body of the patient by a vein or artery of a leg. Very rarely does it impair the blood flow of the leg. If this happens the doctors shift it and connect it through other body parts. In a very few cases if the damage in the leg is too bad, it has to be cut off.

Stroke – There is a risk of stroke occurring as well as sometimes all the parts of brain doesn’t get equal blood flow during an ECMO treatment. This is very rare and only 5% of the people have a chance of this

These are the few things that are noteworthy about ECMO. ECMO treatment costs can be expensive but now with different kinds of Mediclaim facilities being available to the customers, there is nothing to worry about.

The ECMO has found wide use in the treatment of the cases mentioned above, and the purpose of ECMO treatment permeates to other fields of medical sciences. Though the ECMO treatment presently is considered expensive, researchers and experts are striving to improve its scopes and find measures to make this treatment more affordable for people with different economic backgrounds. With the treatment currently made available to patients with the Mediclaim facility, it is more readily available for patients with critical cases.

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