ECMO (pronounced “eck-moe”), which is extracorporeal membrane oxygenation treatment, provides short-term emergency life support for patients with a failing heart, lungs or both. The device replaces the function of the heart and lungs for patients, allowing physicians time to treat patients suffering the most critical conditions. For example, ECMO is used during life-threatening conditions such as severe lung damage from infection, or shock after a massive heart attack.
“As Greater Cincinnati’s only heart transplant program, we believe that no one should have to leave the region to receive the care they need, especially patients who are critically ill or injured,” said Suzanne Bennett, MD, UC Health anesthesiologist and associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the UC College of Medicine. “The use of ECMO by air will expedite transport and critical, life-saving treatment for patients, improving the speed and quality of care. At UC Health, the ECMO transport team is the same team of specialists who care for the patient throughout his or her acute illness”
In 2011, the UC Health Air Care & Mobile Care program became the first health system in Ohio to transport ECMO patients by ambulance. Now, with the debut of ECMO transport by helicopter, UC Health is continuing its tradition of leading the region in innovative, specialized medical transportation only available at UC Health.
In most emergencies, the ability to administer treatment quickly improves survival, outcomes and quality of life, Bennett said. Now, UC Health will be able to transport patients within a 200-mile radius from University of Cincinnati Medical Center versus the 100 mile-radius that was available previously. Use of ECMO aboard a helicopter requires an advanced level of training and expertise that only UC Health can provide, and an ECMO-trained physician will be aboard all flights to ensure patients receive the highest level of care.
The launch of ECMO by air required a multidisciplinary approach that only UC Health can provide: pilots and flight crews collaborated with the health system’s heart and lung specialists to create the region’s first highly skilled, specialized transport of this magnitude by helicopter.
“Taking the clinical complexity of patients who need ECMO for survival – some of the most critically ill and complex patients in all of medicine – and adding the operational complexity and space constraints of helicopter aviation is a huge challenge,” said William R. Hinckley, MD, Air Care medical director and associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “Thankfully, UC Health is one of the few health systems in the nation with the multidisciplinary expertise and the resources to achieve this level of care in the air.”
UC Health provides advanced cardiac care in both inpatient and outpatient settings, including heart transplantation, ventricular assist devices (VAD), the region’s largest Advanced Heart Failure Treatment Center, and a wide range of other cardiac services.
UC Health Air Care & Mobile Care is celebrating 35 years of bringing the strength of Cincinnati’s only adult academic health system to patients in communities who need it most. Along with ECMO transport on helicopter, UC Health program provides Greater Cincinnati with specialized transport services for patients by air and by ground.