As lung specialists we are often called upon to see patients with serious life-threatening diseases. As a senior physician I can recall a time when many of the life saving drugs and therapies now available did not exist. Recently, our group was involved in just such a case involving a serious life-threatening condition to a patient who would never have survived during my early years as a physician.
The patient in question had a disease which was not recognized earlier and by the time we were involved both of his lungs where consolidated and there really was no way to provide the patient with the oxygen that he needed, at least not with conventional means. The patient could not keep an adequate oxygen level with standard ventilator support and the decision was made to take the next step.
Enter the therapy known extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or ECMO for short. This therapy allows physicians to oxygenate the patient’s blood without it having to go through the lungs. This technique came out of the open heart surgery techniques now commonly used and was instrumental in helping to save some patients during the early part of the Covid pandemic when their lungs were severely affected by the virus.
The patient received the ECMO support at a major center and at last report, following an intense medication program he has been removed from the ECMO device and has substantial improvement in the cat scans of his chest. At this time recovery is anticipated.