Patients waiting for a lung transplant may develop severe respiratory failure while on the transplant waitlist and require mechanical ventilation. Traditionally, such patients rapidly became too sick and deconditioned to tolerate a transplant and they were soon removed from the waitlist.
Since 2009, the Medical ECMO team at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia has pioneered the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) as an artificial lung to temporarily support such patients. By taking over the function of the lungs, ECMO can allow patients to avoid mechanical ventilation
In many cases, this innovative way of using of ECMO even allows patients to get out of bed and exercise. This permits them to maintain or even improve their physical conditioning rather than allowing it to worsen, greatly increasing the likelihood that they will be successfully transplanted.
With this approach, Columbia’s ECMO and Lung Transplant teams have achieved the best survival rates to date for patients who receive ECMO as a bridge to lung transplant. See the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery July 13, 2012.