northwestern medicine

ECMO Machine Used to Save COVID-19 Patient's Life, Officials Say

The device removes blood from the body and oxygenates it, helping relieve strain on damaged lungs and hearts, according to doctors

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For the first time, a medical team at Northwestern University has used a special device to save the life of a patient after they were diagnosed with COVID-19.

The machine, known as an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine, is used to treat patients whose heart or lungs have stopped working properly. The device removes blood from the patient’s body, pumps oxygen into the blood, then pumps it back into the body, according to physicians.

The device is used to relieve pressure on a sick patient’s heart or lungs, and for the first time, it has been  used to save the life of a patient fighting the coronavirus.

The ECMO machine was transported from downtown Chicago to McHenry Hospital on Tuesday.

“Without this ability to get this patient to a higher level of care, the outcome could have been much different,” Chief Nurse Executive Catie Schmit said.

Earlier this year, NBC 5 brought you the story of a patient named Javier, whose life was saved by an ECMO machine after his condition rapidly deteriorated after being diagnosed with influenza.

Today, the patient who was hooked up to the machine has been placed back on a ventilator, and is expected to make a full recovery from the illness.

Doctors do caution that ECMO machines are not the first option to replace ventilators, but Dr. Ankit Bharat says that it is an option that can buy time for critically ill patients.

“It needs to be done at very select centers,” Bharat said. “It’s very resource intensive.”

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