New medical team to pick up patients from other hospitals needing lifesaving procedure

Posted at 4:58 PM, Jun 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-24 12:13:43-04

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — Saint Thomas Health is a launching a new system to provide a specific life-saving treatment to hospitals across Tennessee.

The hospital has dedicated a group of medical professionals including ICU nurses and paramedics to create the ECMO Transport Team.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, otherwise known as ECMO, is a medical procedure that uses a powerful machine to provide both cardiac and respiratory support to patients whose heart and lungs are failing.

The treatment was primarily used on children in the past, but it has expanded to more adults. Patients include those who are waiting for a transplant or suffered from flu complications.

"The last four years we've seen a high volume. It's advanced so much in the last few years, and the research that's been done helps give patients the opportunity to survive when there used to not be an opportunity for the level of severity," Saint Thomas West ECMO Coordinator Jeanie Earwood told NewsChannel 5.

While ECMO has been provided at the hospital for almost a decade, making it mobile is a first.

Starting on July 1st, the team will travel via ambulance to calls from any hospital across Tennessee, especially from rural communities.

The team will attach the patient to its ECMO and bring them to Nashville for further treatment.

"Patients on ECMO support at another hospital call us because they want to transport their patient," Earwood said. "Just any hospital that is in need."

All week the 20-plus member team has been training through simulations under the company ECMO Advantage in Murfreesboro.

Facility coordinator Shanna Seigel said Saint Thomas West is the only client to be trained in Tennessee.

A patient can be on ECMO for a couple or days or more than a year, depending on the condition.

The machine can cost up to more than $100,000.