Monday, 2023-05-01

SKMC’s effective use of ECMO offers the most critically ill patients a chance to survive

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, May 01, 2023: Sajjad Alam, a 19-year-old, was recently hospitalized at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) with severe respiratory distress due to a common virus. SKMC is a part of SEHA and a subsidiary of PureHealth Group – the UAE’s largest integrated healthcare platform. On admission to the Emergency Department, he was found struggling to take proper breaths, and his oxygen saturation levels had gone down to 78%. He was previously healthy and was not suffering from any other illness. However, his BMI was around 18, indicating he was malnourished. On inspection, it was found that his lungs had failed due to a severe pneumonia that had spread throughout his body. He was shifted to ICU and put on a ventilator the same day. Despite all the efforts, Sajjad’s condition was not improving. At this point, considering his age and recovery chances, a decision was made to put him on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) to support his breathing. The treatment uses an artificial heart and lung to support the body when a person’s organs are too sick to do the job. Dr. Mohammed Abdelrehman Shalaby, Consultant Critical Care and Adult ECMO lead, SKMC, said: “ECMO gives patients an opportunity to survive until we resolve the heart or lung failure or replace them if needed. ECMO is the maximum level of life support, it is basically your heart and lungs outside your body.” After detailed discussions and weighing the risks, the doctors planned to put the patient on ECMO after six days of ventilator support. He was put in ECMO on his 20th birthday. The ECMO team at SKMC consisted of 24 highly specialized and well-trained experienced specialists that included intensive care physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, perfusionists, dietitians and physical therapists, providing a multidisciplinary holistic approach to improve the chances of survival. Dr. Mohammed Amari, Division Chief of Critical Care, SKMC, explained: “We provide ECMO support to babies, children, and adults across two ICUs throughout the hospital. ECMO is more than just a sophisticated state-of-the-art machine. It requires significant dedicated time at the bedside, multiple equipments, and highly trained personnel. It also involves close monitoring and round-the-clock intervention and care for patients.” After almost 10 days on ECMO, Sajjad’s lungs slowly started showing signs of improvement, and infections began to recede. Still, the team at SKMC was unable to start the process of taking him off ECMO due to continuous bleeding in his lungs. Several bronchoscopy procedures had to be performed to remove the clots that had formed in his lungs. After 27 days, Sajjad was finally taken off ECMO support and transferred to the general ward. Sajjad shared: “I was literally dying, and if it weren’t for the expertise, technology, and the level of care that I received at SKMC, I wouldn’t be here today. They saved my life.” Currently, he is able to drink, eat and walk. His organs are working in good condition, and he is breathing naturally in room air. He talks to his family back home daily through video calls and was finally discharged home. Dr. Shalaby concluded: “Sajjad is living proof of the power of ECMO. We didn’t give up on this young man, and though the decision wasn’t at all easy due to his condition, ECMO was our only resort to save his life. It is a miracle that he is among us today, and without ECMO, chances were slim to none. The case has shown us that if we persist with ECMO treatment and work together as a team, even severely damaged lungs can recover completely.” To find out more about SKMC’s services, book an appointment by calling 800 50 or visit SEHA.ae. You can also book an appointment through the SEHA Mobile app or WhatsApp us on 02-4102200.