Critical COVID-19 patients recover miraculously after months on ECMO assistance

In two different cases, patients who had COVID-19 and accompanying lung problems suddenly recovered after being on ECMO for a few months. Doctors believe that patients’ recovery after such a lengthy ECMO surgery is extremely rare, as ECMO is only prescribed for a few hours or a few of days to prepare for a lung transplant. Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) is a process in which blood is pumped and oxygenated outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.

A 32-year-old COVID-infected patient was on ECMO support at the city’s MGM Hospital for 72 days. According to doctors, it is maybe the longest in the country. The patient caught COVID-19 on May 18, and as a result, he had significant lung damage as well as a slew of other health complications like ENT, hemorrhage, seizures, and so on. According to doctors, he was placed on ECMO in the first week of June and had a tracheostomy in the second week of June while being treated in another hospital.

The patient was admitted to MGM Healthcare on July 13, according to Dr. KR Balakrishnan, Chairman-Cardiac Sciences Director. “He was brought to us with complete lung involvement, and we opted to maintain ECMO assistance to stabilize his health. “The team then concentrated on resolving his health difficulties one at a time,” he explained.

Dr. Suresh Rao of MGM’s Institute of Heart and Lung Transplant stated that patients who are on mechanical support for long periods of time face significant fluctuations. “The body loses significant immunity, and there is always a higher danger of infection, with the patient also having other health problems.” In such instances, the prospects of recovery are greatly reduced. We were able to rest his lungs by keeping him on ECMO, allowing them to recover and begin functioning,” he explained.

The patient, according to the experts, has responded nicely to the treatment and his vitals are currently stable.
A 56-year-old COVID-19 patient at the Rela hospital experienced a similar remarkable recovery from his critically ill state. According to medics, Mr. Mudijja tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of April and suffered respiratory difficulties early on, as well as moderate COVID-19 pneumonia. He had a 92 percent oxygen saturation level (Sp02) in room air, and when his condition deteriorated, he required 15 liters of oxygen per minute. The Heart and Lung Team, chaired by Dr. C Arumugam, Senior Consultant, Heart and Lung Transplant Surgeon, opted to proceed with V-V ECMO.

According to Dr. C Arumugam, after 50 days on ECMO, the patient began to improve and exhibited greater lung performance, so they chose to treat him without a lung transplant. “On the 54th day of ECMO support, the CT scan revealed improvement, so we gradually reduced the ECMO support, and the patient was removed off ECMO 62 days later. We kept him on modest ventilator support with tracheotomy for another two weeks before weaning him off the ventilator at the end of July,” he explained.

Prof Mohamed Rela, Chairman and Managing Director of Rela Hospital, stated that ECMO has traditionally been used as an intermittent arrangement till lung transplantation and emphasised how the team of doctors transformed it into a life-saving surgery. “With the third wave approaching and the population still unvaccinated, the ECMO machine is a key tool on which the healthcare fraternity will rely,” he continued.

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