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ECMO ups recovery rate for those with respiratory issues
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 17 - 08 - 2020

RIYADH — The extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) technique has so far been used successfully on 32 patients suffering from acute respiratory problems caused by COVID-19. The technique was first adopted by the Second Health Grouping in the Kingdom's Central Region, a recent Saudi Press Agency (SPA) report said.
The ECMO machine is similar to the heart-lung bypass machine used in open heart surgery. It pumps and oxygenates a patient's blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest. When a patient is connected to an ECMO, blood flows through tubing to an artificial lung in the machine that adds oxygen and takes out carbon dioxide. Then the blood is brought in sync with body temperature and pumped back into the body.
The ECMO machine works outside the body, by installing a blood catheter in the central veins, whether in the neck or thigh vessels, and then transferring blood outside the body to the machine through tubes, supplying it with oxygen, removing carbon dioxide, and returning the oxygenated blood to the body. Hence, the machine works as an external lung that helps achieve organ perfusion until the lungs recover and restore their functions.
The specialized medical team seeks to use this technology in advanced cases of respiratory failure and acute cardiac-respiratory failure together, as it is a bridge that gives the heart and lungs a chance to recover, in addition to treating children and adults with severe failure of the heart or lung functions, or both.
This service is available in a number of reference hospitals. In the event of a patient's need for this service, a specialized team will be sent to evaluate his condition, install catheters, begin to perfuse the heart and lungs, and then coordinate the transfer of the patient for complete treatment in the specialized unit at the reference hospital.
Recent studies indicate the growing role of this technique in improving lung function in specific groups of patients with severe pneumonia caused by infectious or non-infectious diseases.


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