Transportation of critically ill patients on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

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Serious pulmonary and cardiac failure may be treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) when conventional treatment fails. In some severely ill patients, it may be necessary to initiate ECMO at the local hospital and, thereafter, transport the patient back to the ECMO center. The aim of this study was to evaluate our experiences with transportation of patients on ECMO. From Oct 1992 to Jan 2008 23, patients were transported on ECMO from local hospitals to Rikshospitalet. The study included seventeen patients with pulmonary failure and four patients with cardiac failure. All age groups were represented. Aircraft were used in 17 cases, ground vehicles in six. The times from decision until ECMO was established, the time from ECMO to departure from the local hospital and the transportation time were registered. All transportations were uneventful. After 10.3 ±6.7 days, six patients died on ECMO and another patient died within 30 days. Mean ECMO time for those who died was 13.3 ± 9.6 vs. 8.5 ± 4.7 days for survivors, p = 0.34. Seventeen patients were able to be successfully weaned from ECMO. Thirty day survival was 67%. The mean age for survivors was 15.3 ± 18.3 (range 0-54.6) vs. 23.6 ± 20.3 years (range 0-55.9) in fatal cases, p = 0.41. The time from referral to initiating ECMO was a mean of 7.32 ± 2.3 (3.0-12.0) hours for survivors vs. 7.88 ± 3.0 (3.50 - 13.40) hours for non- survivors, p = 0.76. The time from initiating ECMO to departure was 5.1 ± 6.5 (0.58-23.75) hours in survivors vs. 9.1 ± 6.8 (0.55-18.45) hours in non-survivors, p = 0.18. Time from departure to arrival at Rikshospitalet was a mean of 3.2 (0.50-5.10) hours for survivors versus 2.5 (0.5-4.40) for non-survivors, p = 0.41. This study shows that ECMO can be successfully established at local hospitals, using an experienced team, and that transportation of patients on ECMO can be performed safely and without technical difficulties. Survival for this group of patients did not differ from patients treated at the ECMO center. © 2008 Sage Publications.

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Wagner, K., Sangolt, G. K., Risnes, I., Karlsen, H. M., Nilsen, J. E., Strand, T., … Svennevig, J. L. (2008). Transportation of critically ill patients on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Perfusion, 23(2), 101–106.

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