Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation: a breakthrough for respiratory failure

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Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a method for providing long-term treatment of a patient in a modified heart–lung machine. Desaturated blood is drained from the patient, oxygenated and pumped back to a major vein or artery. ECMO supports heart and lung function and may be used in severe heart and/or lung failure when conventional intensive care fails. The Stockholm programme started in 1987 with treatment of neonates. In 1995, the first adult patient was accepted onto the programme. Interhospital transportation during ECMO was started in 1996, which enabled retrieval of extremely unstable patients during ECMO. Today, the programme has an annual volume of about 80 patients. It has been characterized by, amongst other things, minimal patient sedation. By 31 December 2014, over 900 patients had been treated, the vast majority for respiratory failure, and over 650 patients had been transported during ECMO. The median ECMO duration was 5.3, 5.7 and 7.1 days for neonatal, paediatric and adult patients, respectively. The survival to hospital discharge rate for respiratory ECMO was 81%, 70% and 63% in the different age groups, respectively, which is significantly higher than the overall international experience as reported to the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) Registry (74%, 57% and 57%, respectively). The survival rate was significantly higher in the Stockholm programme compared to ELSO for meconium aspiration syndrome, congenital diaphragmatic hernia in neonates and pneumocystis pneumonia in paediatric patients

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