The MUHC is proud of its life-saving adult ECMO program

Montreal, - An article published today focused on the costs related to ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, an advanced therapy used to treat patients in cardiac arrest or with severe respiratory failure, for whom all conventional therapies have been exhausted and death without further support is imminent. Indeed, ECMO is an expensive therapy that requires considerable expertise and sophisticated equipment, but it also saves lives.  

As one of the world’s foremost academic health centres, the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is committed to assuring exceptional and integrated specialized and ultraspecialized patient-centric care, research, teaching and technology assessment to the population from across Québec. As such, we proudly stand by our adult ECMO program, which, among other programs, is evidence of this commitment.

ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, is a therapy that adds oxygen to the blood and pumps it through the body, replacing the heart and lungs. This technique can temporarily compensate for heart or lung failure by providing adequate oxygenation for several days, weeks or months. 

“ECMO saves lives, says Dr. Gordan Samoukovic, an intensive-care physician specializing in ECMO and head of the adult ECMO program at the MUHC. “For patients with potentially fatal severe cardiac failure, profound circulatory shock or respiratory failure, it can provide the greatest chance of survival.”

For the past two years, the Critical Care Department of the MUHC has been building up its adult ECMO program, with the goal of offering this lifesaving form of therapy to critically ill patients across all MUHC hospitals and potentially, the RUIS, which covers 63 percent of the province’s territory. 

“In 2019, we treated almost 100 patients, with survival rates superior to those in published literature. We’re also one of only three centres in Canada offering ECMO and ECPR (Extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation) 24/7, and the only one in Québec,” adds Dr. Samoukovic.

The multidisciplinary ECMO team comprises specialists in cardiac or vascular surgery, cardiology, intensive care, anesthesia and emergency medicine, a physician and a perfusionist with expertise in ECMO, as well as respiratory therapists, nurses and other health professionals. The MUHC is currently implementing a nursing training program for the therapy.

“We are working towards developing and maintaining this expertise,” says Dr. Samoukovic, “with standardized protocols and parameters as well as quality assessment for the use of ECMO and a systematic review of all ECMO cases.”

The MUHC is proud to be one of eight centres in Quebec offering this well-established advanced life-saving therapy to patients.