An 11-year-old girl who suffered acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) becomes the first pediatric patient in South India to have successfully recovered by the useof artificial heart-lung by-pass machine known as ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) at Apollo Children Hospital.
The child was transferred to Apollo Children's Hospital few weeks earlier, due to progressive pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition quickly worsened as there was a rapid loss in the functioning of her lung leading to drastic drop of oxygen levels and her liver showed signs of decreased function. Hence as a final option, the Child was put on ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation).
Though ECMO has been used in adult cases in the past, for the first time in South India, the technology has saved a pediatric patient, who was suffering from a life threatening pneumonia to give her a chance to survive and quicker recovery.
According to Dr. Paul Ramesh, Consultant Cardiothoracic surgeon and ECMO coordinator, Apollo Hospitals, "As the ventilators were of no support to the child, we had to put her on to the ECMO where her affected lung was put to complete rest and was given time to heal, managing the ECMO was the most challenging task as it has to be monitored 24x7. It required an organized effort of team experts including cardiac surgeons, pulmonologists, anesthetists, critical care specialists, physiotherapists and nursing staff".
He also added, "ECMO is a type of heart-lung pump that provides support when a child's heart or lungs fail to work properly or need to rest. By taking over the work of the heart and lungs, the machine gives a child's heart or lungs a chance to recover. To initiate ECMO, catheters are placed in large blood vessels to provide access to the patient's blood stream. Anticoagulant drugs are given to prevent blood clotting. The ECMO machine continuously removes blood from the patient and performs gas exchange, much like artificial lungs, before returning the blood to the patient".
Elaborating on the successful pediatric ECMO, Dr. Suchitra Ranjith, Senior Consultant Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Apollo Children's Hospitals said, "The story of the child's astonishing success is the triumph of highly advanced and diverse specialties coming together and gelling as a coherent team. It was a collective effort to pull her back from heaven."
Dr. Indira Jayakumar, Senior Consultant Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Apollo Children's Hospitals said, "It is the Final Frontier, the only option when all conventional therapies to improve lungs or heart function fail, but like any other forms of treatment , the key is to initiate it early enough . It can be useful following lung damage by H1N1 infection too. It is however pointless in terminal or incurable diseases."
The child was taken off the ECMO machine after 6 days of treatment and was discharged in a fully fit condition on few days ago. Apollo Children Hospitals gave her a gift of life on her 12th birth day (The day she was discharged).
Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) is an advanced technology, which ensures that oxygen goes in and carbon dioxide is taken out of the body for patients who have heart or lung failure or both. It delivers oxygen and support to the heart by a modified heart -lung machine in the ICU.
ECMO is a temporary life support system that allows time for evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of the condition that caused heart or lung failure. It performs the work of the lungs and heart and prevents organs and the patient from dying during healing and ECMO supports the patient for days to weeks.
The ECMO technology has a proven track record in a variety of conditions especially with respect to children and it requires a dedicated team of medical and paramedical experts with round the clock bedside care.