What is it about?

The heart and lungs play a very important role in our body. They maintain the circulation of blood in our body. In patients with severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the heart and lungs often fail to function properly. When this happens, blood does not get pumped properly and organs do not receive adequate oxygen. Patients then experience breathing difficulties. What can doctors do in such cases? They can provide extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to these patients. During an ECMO procedure, blood is pumped outside the body to a heart-lung machine. This machine works exactly like its name suggests. It removes carbon dioxide from our blood and adds oxygen to it. Then, this blood is pumped back into the body. This emergency procedure has been used to treat critically ill patients with COVID-19 as well. The guidelines on ECMO usage in patients with severe COVID-19 were updated in a 2021 article.

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Why is it important?

Various types of patients need life-supporting equipment (e.g., ECMO machines) during medical emergencies. However, during pandemics, hospitals may have a limited number of ECMO machines available. Owing to this scarcity, doctors need to prioritize the needs of certain patients over those of others. The guidelines recommended by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) help doctors make these decisions. KEY TAKEAWAY: Generally speaking, the ELSO recommends using ECMO in patients with COVID-19 who are experiencing heart or lung failure. In rare cases, children experiencing the same may also need ECMO. However, the usage is permitted only when the patients meet certain criteria. If resources are scarce, these criteria become more stringent. Besides the above, ELSO also recommends strategies for the effective management of patients with COVID-19.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for COVID-19: Updated 2021 Guidelines from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization, ASAIO Journal, February 2021, Wolters Kluwer Health, DOI: 10.1097/mat.0000000000001422.
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