The Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation system, or ECMO, which replaces the blood oxygenation function of the lungs and heart, was used on a patient with coronavirus pneumonia.
“ECMO is a rescue treatment used when medics have already tried to stabilise a patient’s breathing by other means but it hasn’t worked," says Dr Miguel Rodriguez from Son Espases Hospital.
The first hospital transfer took place during the first week of April and it was a complicated procedure.
"We were called from the ICU of another hospital for critical patients, we intubated the patient, connected them to a respirator and give them oxygen,” explains Dr. Rodríguez.
In the Balearic Islands, only the referral hospital has this service and the multidisciplinary team involves ICU Staff, Doctors, Nurses and SAMU 061 Emergency Technicians and we always collaborate with the team of the Centre that requests help,” explains Dr Rodríguez.
When trying to rescue a patient infected with COVID-19 the team is faced with the added difficulty of isolation measures and must wear personal protective equipment of the highest security.
"We have complied with all the recommendations of the health Authorities this week and saved the life of the patient who is still being treated at Son Espases Hospital,” said Dr Rodriguez.
The ECMO mechanical ventilation equipment performs the respiratory function and the blood is cleansed while the lungs remain less active.
"The extra-corporeal technique oxygenates the blood with a membrane," said the Doctor.
The equipment was installed in Son Espases in 2016 and has been used during the course of the coronovirus epidemic in the Balearics.
"We participate in the transfer of patients when the final therapy is not available in our hospital, for example in children’s cases or organ transplants, which are highly complex."
The increase in critically ill patients with acute pulmonary injury and the increase in organ donors revealed the importance of having this type of equipment in the referral hospital.
The portable ECMO equipment that was used last week was bought by the Government last October and facilitates the inter-hospital transfer of patients when needed.
Until recently, IB-Salut had a portable ECMO equipment, reserved for Transplant Coordination, and a fixed ECMO team, which was uninstalled in order to perform the first airborne transfer of a paediatric patient using the extracorporeal oxygenation technique in Spain.
A 14-month-old boy with severe lung involvement and months later it was used for an adult.