ECMO at UPMC Hamot Saves Young Man’s Life

A streamlined and efficient collaboration among medical specialties at UPMC Hamot, including the fledgling ECMO program, saved a 36 year-old Erie, Pennsylvania man’s life.  A massive heart attack was the last thing he was thinking about on Valentine’s Day 2019. Yet that’s what happened when running a little behind to get to work, he started to jog to make up time.
 
He was rushed to the Emergency Department at UPMC Hamot and seen quickly by Emergency and Cardiology specialists, who diagnosed cardiogenic shock and made the decision to send the patient to the Cardiac Catheterization lab and start him on ECMO.
 
“ER and Cardiology did the right things…stabilized him with ECMO and sent him to the ICU” said Carlos Racedo, MD, a critical care specialist who is one of the leaders of the ECMO program at UPMC Hamot. “What we’re trying to do at Hamot is streamline the ECMO process for emergencies.” 
 
Dr. Racedo added that Cardiology, the Cardiovascular Thoracic Service and Critical Care Medicine all worked in unison to coordinate rapid and effective treatment.
 
Since the patient was in cardiogenic shock with acute cardiorespiratory failure, he was cannulated for VA ECMO while in the Cath Lab then sent to the ICU. ECMO was used as a rescue therapy to buy time and maintain his life until he was stable enough to undergo treatment for his cardiac arrest. Once stabilized, he was transferred by helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian for continued cardiac and respiratory support using ECMO.
 
The young man from Erie is thankful that ECMO was available at UPMC Hamot and was treated by a multidisciplinary team that worked swiftly and collaboratively to save his life. Dr. Racedo noted that the success of ECMO on this patient was significantly enhanced by his state of good health prior to his cardiac arrest, and that he is a very fortunate case.
 
Dr. Racedo co-directs the Cardiovascular ICU and is one of the leaders of the ECMO program at UPMC Hamot that functions in collaboration with Hamot cardiac surgeon Francis Ferdinand, MD, and cardiologist Quentin Orlando, MD. The collaboration also involves UPMC Presbyterian personnel, including Dr. Penny Sappington, MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC. Dr. Sappington is also the Medical Director of the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Division for Procirca Perfusion Services. 
 
In the past two years, UPMC Hamot has treated several people using VV or VA ECMO for rescue in a variety of circumstances and for selected cases. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, is a form of cardiopulmonary life-support, where blood is drained from the vascular system, circulated outside the body by a mechanical pump, and then reinfused into the circulation.