BY CATIE WEGMAN
Our teams at UF Health Shands who operate unique machines that help keep patients alive at their most vulnerable moments have been honored with an international award for excellence.
The Extracorporeal Life Support Organization, or ELSO, has given UF Health Shands its Gold Level ELSO Award for Excellence in Life Support for our exceptional care in using extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, in both pediatric and adult programs. We were recognized for using the highest-quality measures in patient care and providing a healing environment through training, education and communication.
“ECMO is a process where blood is pumped through an oxygenator outside of the body because a patient’s heart or lungs aren’t working as they should,” said Tim Bantle, R.R.T., UF Health Shands Respiratory Care supervisor and ECMO coordinator.
We began using ECMO at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in 1991 primarily as a neonatal program. The adult program began in 2015.
Since the program’s beginning, UF Health Shands staff has cared for 589 patients using ECMO and the program has a survival rate of 76 percent, higher than the national survival rates, which range from 50 to 71 percent.
“Our percent is better than the national average,” Bantle said. “So, we take pride in that.”
Before the adult program, he said UF Health Shands was seeing about 25 to 30 ECMO cases a year. This past year, the team served 70 patients using ECMO.
“There’s a real challenge in supporting an adult,’’ he said, “It’s a difficult patient population, but we have had really good outcomes.”
Bantle attributes earning the ELSO award to many factors, including the significant support of UF Health Shands administration.
“We now have 10 core ECMO specialists, a fleet of the most advanced ECMO machines available and a network of physicians across UF Health who support and share our vision. We have completely revamped our ECMO program,” Bantle said. “We’ve reestablished ourselves as a true center of excellence.”
For Saleem Islam, M.D., M.P.H., director of the pediatric ECMO program and a UF College of Medicine professor and chief of pediatric surgery, the award recognizes the hard work being done by the faculty physicians, nurses and ECMO specialists.
“We are pleased and feel that we can do even better,’’ Islam said. “We want to continue to improve outcomes, refine protocols and define research avenues and parameters to advance care for all.”
Tiago Machuca, M.D., Ph.D., director of the adult ECMO program and a College of Medicine associate professor of surgery, said his favorite part of being involved with the program is seeing patients recover when their risk of dying had far exceeded their chance for survival.
Machuca said, “When you’re able to act on that situation and turn around a patient’s outcome … to see the patient recover and walk out of the hospital, that’s the best part.”