Five Things You Need to Know about ECMO at Riley Hospital

August 28, 2018
Topics: Riley Staff Profiles, About Us

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Brian W. Gray, MD, FAAP Surgical Director of ECMO at Riley Hospital for Children

ECMO is one of many first-class services provided at Riley Hospital for Children and Riley Children’s Foundation donors are helping this program grow! Here are five things you need to know about ECMO at Riley according to the Surgical Director of ECMO, Brian Gray, MD, FAAP.

1. ECMO is a support mechanism, not a treatment. 

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, or ECMO, is a system that removes blood from a patient’s body, oxygenates it and then returns it to the patient. It supports a patient when their body is unable to handle this function on its own and needs to rest.

“A wide range of patients may require ECMO, but emergency ECMO situations usually come up in patients who have recently undergone cardiac surgery,” says Dr. Gray.

2. 974 patients have received ECMO support at Riley. 

On May 31, 2017, Riley Hospital celebrated 30 years of its ECMO program. To date, 974 Riley patients have received ECMO. On average, this means about 40 patients per year. 

“We can comfortably run three patients on ECMO at one time, but we can support up to five in an emergency situation,” says Dr. Gray. 

There are five ECMO systems meant for infants and another three meant for older children, making a total of eight at Riley.

3. Emergency pediatric ECMO is only available at Riley in the state of Indiana. 

Riley Hospital is a pediatric center of excellence for its ECMO program and it is the only pediatric hospital in the state with an emergency ECMO program. The overall goal of this program is to be ahead of the curve and best of class when it comes to this service. Dr. Gray and his team have been able to achieve this by conducting regular ECMO simulations. 

4. For Emergency ECMO, practice makes perfect. 

Emergency ECMO is challenging in that it calls for coordination between different staff members, departments and specialties in a matter of minutes.  

“In an emergency situation, if we can get a patient on ECMO in 40 minutes or less, they have a better chance of eventually walking out of the hospital without long-term complications,” says Dr. Gray. 

ECMO simulations allow Riley doctors and nurses to practice and talk through potential problems ahead of time. Most importantly, these simulations allow the emergency ECMO process to become faster and more efficient. 

5. Riley Children’s Foundation donors are helping support emergency ECMO at Riley. 

Very few hospitals have a simulation program, mostly due to a lack of resources. The fact that Riley Children’s Foundation covers funds for mannequins and simulation equipment is playing a huge role in the success of these sessions. 

"As a physician and researcher at Riley, I get to see how the contributions from donors to Riley Children's Foundation affect the lives of our current and future patients on a daily basis,” says Dr. Gray. “As Riley Children's Foundation donors, my entire family gets to contribute to those efforts and know we are making a difference." 

Riley Blogger

The Riley Blog is written and/or edited by members of the Riley Children's Foundation Communications Staff.

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