Supporting life

Supporting life

UF&Shands named Center of Excellence for ECMO program

By Laura Mize

Pediatric surgeon David Kays, M.D., with his patient Matthew Cokley who was diagnosed with Congential Diaphragmatic Hernia.

An international group focused on treatment for patients with organ system failure has bestowed its Award for Excellence in Life Support to the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation program at UF&Shands, the University of Florida Academic Health Center.

The award, given by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization, designates UF&Shands as an Extracorporeal Life Support Center of Excellence and “signifies to patients and families a commitment to exceptional patient care,” according to the organization’s website.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, called ECMO for short, involves pumping a person’s blood out of the body, through an artificial lung that fills it with the right amount of oxygen and returns is back to the body.

This procedure is used most frequently for babies and children with conditions that involve life-threatening but reversible respiratory failure that is unresponsive to other ventilation and support techniques, said David Kays, M.D., medical director of UF&Shands’ ECMO program, which has been in place since 1989. Kays also is an associate professor and chief of pediatric surgery in the UF College of Medicine’s department of surgery.

“The award puts us among the top quality programs in the country with regard to ECMO policies, procedures and outcomes, and it’s just another statement about the quality of treatment here at UF&Shands,” said Kays, who received the award in September. “It’s not a children’s hospital designation, but ECMO is a modality that really matured in the pediatric population, so it reflects very well on the Shands Hospital for Children at UF.”

David Burchfield, M.D., a professor in the department of pediatrics and chief of the division of neonatology, plays an integral role in the program as director of the neonatal intensive care unit, Kays said. Most of UF&Shands’ ECMO patients receive treatment in this unit.

Despite its history as a procedure used primarily for children, doctors also are using ECMO for adults. At UF&Shands, acute care and cardiothoracic surgeons have employed ECMO to treat adult patients with trauma injuries.