Medical staff celebrates advances in ECMO

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
The year 2010 marks the 25th anniversary of the 59th Medical wing staff conducting extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation missions.

ECMO is a machine that provides cardiac and respiratory support primarily to infants and children whose hearts and lungs are so severely diseased or damaged that they can no longer serve their function.

Wilford Hall Medical Center officials provide the only long-distance ECMO transport option in the world.

There have been 187 patients treated to date, with 76 requiring transport on ECMO. The number of requests for transport on ECMO has increased in the past five years, with an average transport distance of more than 1,000 miles.

While ECMO is primarily focused on infants and children, a new venture to provide ECMO for adult trauma patients is underway.

"My primary goal is to expand the capabilities of the current neonatal/pediatric ECMO program so that we can offer ECMO to combat casualties who are failing ventilator support," said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jeremy Cannon, the medical co-director of the surgical intensive care unit at Brooke Army Medical Center.

"ECMO was initially done 30 years ago in adults but it was not very successful; today we have better knowledge, improved skills and technology," said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Susan Doltzer, the ECMO director.

According to Heather Campbell, an ECMO coordinator, the intent is to eventually offer adult ECMO services at BAMC for trauma patients who may benefit.
"We also will be training some of the adult trauma physicians and staff in ECMO for a new research protocol they will be implementing at BAMC," Ms. Campbell said.

The first adult patient put on an ECMO circuit at Wilford Hall was Airman Paige Villers. Airman Villers caught the adenovirus, locally known as "boot camp flu." She had a rare strain more common to Russia and Eastern Europe. It took a team of more than 125 staff members approximately three months to treat Airman Villers.

ECMO has come a long way over the years, said Cheryl Collicott, a senior ECMO coordinator, who served on the first ECMO mission as an active-duty member.

"It was cool to see the transformation of ECMO over the years from the very simplistic first generation little green litter strapped to a cart, to our third-generation version with all the advanced equipment."