Ga. agency offers state’s first ECMO specialty ambulance

The customized ambulance is built to transport the four-person team and equipment to care for a patient receiving ECMO


ATLANTA  — Emory Healthcare is putting a new specialized ambulance on the road to transport patients who require extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

ECMO provides cardiopulmonary support to persons whose heart and/or lungs are unable to function appropriately to keep them alive.

"ECMO works by replacing the heart and lungs, pumping blood in-and-out of the body, while removing the carbon dioxide and oxygenating blood," James M. Blum, MD, chief of critical care for the Emory Department of Anesthesiology and director of the Emory ECMO Center, said. "It allows life saving time essential for the treatment and recovery of the lungs and heart."

Photo Courtesy Emory Healthcare

The Emory ECMO Center provides a comprehensive team of clinicians, advanced technology, and protocols to support patients in respiratory failure, cardiac failure and bridges to transplantation.

"In the past, ECMO has mostly been used on children but the technology is being used more frequently in adults with cardiac and respiratory failure," Blum said.

Emory’s new critical care ambulance, created in partnership with MetroAtlanta Ambulance Service, has a customized interior that includes special equipment and expanded seating to accommodate the ECMO team.

Proper transportation of ECMO patients requires a larger care team of at least four people, each with specialized knowledge and skills so additional seating was necessary for the unit.

The ambulance also contains equipment for monitoring and lifting the patient because of the complexity of their illness and weight of the equipment.

During a transport mission, members of the Emory ECMO Center have the ability to stabilize patients by remotely initiating ECMO before the trip begins and subsequently transferring the patient to Emory University Hospital. Transporting extremely compromised patients without initiating ECMO has a very high mortality rate.

"For patients with severe cardiac or pulmonary failure who require transport to a specialized hospital like ours for advanced medical therapy, transportation can be a difficult and dangerous problem," Bryce Gartland, MD, chief executive officer at Emory University Hospital said.

"With the addition of this customized vehicle, Emory University Hospital is the only adult ECMO center in Georgia and one of the the few in the country offering specialized transportation services from a referring hospital to an ECMO Center," Gartland said.

According to Blum, the specialized ambulance will allow patients within about a 70-mile range of the hospital to be transported in approximately four hours from the initial transfer request. The Emory ECMO Center also has established the ability to transport patients globally via air, having completed its first airborne transport in 2014.

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Copyright © 2021 EMS1. All rights reserved.