For a half decade and counting, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital has used an advanced treatment called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to provide vital oxygen supply to people when it matters the most.
For the dedicated team members at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, their five-year ECMO anniversary marks more than a milestone. It means saving more lives.
ECMO in action
ECMO is a cutting-edge technology that has been vital in treating critically ill people — like Zac DiGiorgio — whose lungs are in peril and unable to function on their own.
Dr. Asif Saberi, Wellstar medical director of critical care & ECMO, shared how this state-of-the-art therapy works.
“ECMO is a way to provide air to the body when the lungs fail completely,” Dr. Saberi said. The innovative therapy helps removes carbon dioxide from the bloodstream using a machine when the lungs cannot on their own.
“During ECMO, blood is diverted from the body using plastic catheters — called cannulae — which are approximately the size of a garden hose,” Dr. Saberi explained.
“When the blood is redirected from the body, it is ‘cleaned’ of carbon dioxide which the lungs would have done naturally,” Dr. Saberi said.
After that, the re-oxygenated blood is recirculated through the system to supply life-saving oxygen to the body.
People who suffer traumatic injuries are not the only ones benefitting from the high-tech treatment. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, ECMO has also become instrumental in the fight against the virus.
ECMO & the COVID-19 pandemic
Recently, ECMO has been key in caring for COVID-19 patients with the most severe symptoms.
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, and can affect the lungs and a person’s ability to breathe normally. In fact, the American Lung Association reported that the lungs are the first organ affected by the virus.
Symptoms like shortness of breath and difficulty breathing may appear suddenly and be severe. For the most critical cases, expanding access to ECMO can be a gamechanger.
“Our ability to provide one specific therapy, ECMO, for a significant number of young people in the extreme manifestation of the disease, is possibly the difference between life and death,” Dr. Saberi shared.
By offering ECMO right here in Georgia, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital is helping to save lives and fight back against the virus. And, for us, five years is only the beginning.
To learn more about how our team is providing world-class care for the community, visit the Wellstar Kennestone Hospital page.