ECMO turns a life saver during pandemic

A machine that functions as an artificial lung or heart has become a saviour of sorts for critically ill COVID-19 patients who cannot be put on ventilator support. With World Heart Day falling on Wednesday, more heart-specialist doctors are reportedly depending on it to save lives in the pandemic period.

Blood is drawn out of the body into the Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine and oxygen is mixed with it using a special bypass pump-circuit. The blood is then pumped back into the body. “Earlier, we rarely used the ECMO machine because of its cost and other reasons. After the pandemic struck, it has become more useful. Almost 50% of patients who can’t be put on ventilator support have survived because of this machine,” says Murali P. Vettath, chairman, Centre for Heart and Vascular Care, Meitra Hospital, Kozhikode.

The World Heart Federation has come up with a theme ‘Use heart’ to mark the day. “World Heart Day is more crucial than ever as the world still struggles to fight COVID-19 and we have never been more aware of the importance of our own and our loved one’s health,” says the federation.

People have been urged to use digital networks that have the power to connect patients with families, friends, other patients, doctors and caregivers. “No one should have to feel alone, pandemic or not, so let us use technology to overcome isolation and gaps in care. As half the world does not have internet connectivity, they cannot access digital tools to help prevent, diagnose and treat cardio-vascular diseases. Disconnected hearts are vulnerable and connected hearts are empowered,” a note by the federation says.

“It is important for heart patients to be in regular touch with their doctors. During the initial months of the pandemic, many did not venture out to consult their doctors because of fear. As a result, some of them suffered heart failure by the time they reached hospitals,” says Dr. Murali.

Health experts also call for looking after the heart by eating a healthy diet, saying ‘no’ to tobacco, and getting plenty of exercise. “Digital tools, like mobile phones and wearables, can help you get motivated and stay on track,” they say.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2021 2:54:47 AM |

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