The Science Time
The survival rate of patients with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) placed on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machines was three times higher than those who are a ventilator, according to a study.
An ECMO machine allows the heart and lungs of a patient to rest by pumping and oxygenating a patient’s blood outside the body. Commonly used by people with lung and heart issues, ECMOs saturate the blood with oxygen.
The study Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation in the Treatment of Severe Pulmonary and Cardiac Compromise in COVID-19, according to the Daily Mail, “showed 17 patients were still on the machines and five patients were off them, meaning a 68% survival rate.”
Researchers from various hospitals led by West Virginia University published the study in the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs (ASAIO) Journal. They connected the 32 patients to the ECMO machines, who came from conventional treatments that didn’t improve their conditions.
The 32 patients were “placed on ECMO machines between March 17 and April at nine different hospitals,” according to the Daily Mail.
The study ran for 24 days. 17 patients were on ECMO, while five others were extubated after they were removed from the machines.
Four of the five patients received intravenous steroids, three had antiviral medications, and two had drugs that blocked a substance produced at the site of the inflammation.
One received hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug being used for COVID-19, which is linked to heart rhythm problems. Out of the five patients, one was discharged from the hospital.
Once medical staff removed the tracheotomy tubes of the 32 patients, “10 died either prior to or shortly,” according to the Daily Mail. It added, “This means the survival rate was 68 percent – three times the survival rate of patients just using a ventilator, which is between 10 and 20 percent.
Tried and tested
One of the first uses of ECMO machines is in the Port of Yokohama, Japan, where the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined after COVID-19 spread in the ship. Researchers in Japan were among the first to report the effectiveness of ECMO machines in patients with the disease.
Although expensive and not available in every hospital, the Daily Mail said, “the treatment has shown promise for patients that haven’t responded to standard therapies and experimental drugs.”
As of April 28, there are 220 patients in North America and another 83 in Europe on ECMO, said the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization. Out of all the cases discharged from the hospital at 136 out of 584, 58 of them were discharged alive or 42 percent.
Although not the most cost-effective way of fighting COVID-19, ECMO machines can save patients who are critically ill with the coronavirus, according to the authors of the study.
Despite plausible results, the researchers said they still need more data to “further define the optimal role of ECMO in patients with COVID-19 and ARDS. These initial data may provide useful information to help define the best strategies to care for these challenging patients.”