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ECMO Transport Program

The Lung Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital has launched a new ECMO Transport Program to provide lifesaving treatment to patients at hospitals throughout New England. ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. It’s a treatment for patients whose heart and/or lungs are failing. The program arranges for Brigham ECMO specialists to travel to other hospitals and bring them back to The Lung Center for complex pulmonary care. It’s the only active ECMO Transport Program in Boston.

The Brigham’s ECMO Transport Program is led by Hari Mallidi, MD, executive director, ECMO, Heart & Vascular Center, Raghu R. Seethala, MD, ECMO medical director at the Brigham, and Nirmal Sharma, MD, medical director of the Brigham’s Lung Transplantation Program.

ECMO Team
From left to right: Adam Smith, ECMO coordinator and clinical educator; Raghu Seethala, MD, ECMO medical director; Raphael Bueno, MD, chief, Division of Thoracic and Cardiac Surgery; Nirmal Sharma, MD, medical director of the Lung Transplantation Program

Lifesaving Care and Transfer for Patients

The ECMO Transport Program is for patients in hospital ICUs who are very sick with severe respiratory failure and/or cardiac failure and aren't responding to conventional therapies. Physicians caring for these patients who don't have ECMO capability at their hospital can reach out to the Brigham's ECMO specialists. Our specialists can travel to their hospital, cannulate the patient on-site, put them on ECMO and transport them back to the Brigham to continue the patient's complex care.

ECMO Treatment

ECMO is an advanced type of mechanical life support that removes blood from the body, oxygenates and removes carbon dioxide from that blood, and then returns the blood to the body. This allows the patient's damaged lungs and/or heart time to recover.

There are two kinds of ECMO:

  1. Venoarterial, which supports the heart and the lungs
  2. Venovenous, which is oxygenation support only for the lungs

Patients who require ECMO treatment due to COVID-19 infection are eligible for transfer. ECMO also serves as a bridge for patients with severe heart and respiratory failure prior to and following surgery, including heart and lung transplantation. In select cases, the Brigham can provide advanced therapy, like a ventricular assist device (VAD), or heart transplant or lung transplant for patients who don't recover from their underlying heart or lung disease.

ECMO Patient Story

The Brigham's ECMO Transport Program received its first patient in September 2020. Samah Othman had a severe case of status asthmaticus and was on a ventilator in a Framingham, Massachusetts hospital. The Brigham's ECMO team traveled to Framingham via Boston MedFlight, placed Samah on ECMO and safely transferred her to the Brigham's Thoracic Surgical Intensive Care Unit to receive complex care.

Watch this interview about Samah's experience.

Patient Referrals

The ECMO Transport Program currently serves hospitals throughout New England.

If you would like to refer a patient to the ECMO Transport Program, please contact the Brigham Health Access Center at 617-732-8903 or 877-637-3337. You also may contact Raghu Seethala, MD, at rseethala@bwh.harvard.edu or Nirmal Sharma, MD, at nsharma21@bwh.harvard.edu.

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