A recent Vanderbilt University study shows that almost 90% of COVID-19 patients who did not receive ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) due to a shortage of resources during the height of the pandemic died in the hospital, even though they were qualified for it.
Approximately 90% of patients who did not have access to ECMO died in the hospital, more than double the 43% mortality rate for patients who did receive the potentially life-saving treatment, despite both groups having similarly young age and limited complications.
“Even when saving ECMO for the youngest, healthiest and sickest patients, we could only provide it to a fraction of patients who qualified for it,” Gannon said. “I hope these data encourage hospitals and federal authorities to invest in the capacity to provide ECMO to more patients.”
Among 240 examined patients with COVID-19 who were referred for ECMO, ninety patients (37.5%) were determined to be medically eligible to receive the treatment and were included in the study. Their median age was 40 years old and 25 (27.8%) were female.
For 35 patients (39%), the health system capacity to provide ECMO at a specialized center was available; for 55 patients (61%), it was not.
Death before hospital discharge occurred in 15 of the 35 patients (43%) who received ECMO, compared with 49 of the 55 patients (89%) who did not receive it.
“Because some patients die despite receiving ECMO, there has been debate about how much benefit it provides. This study shows the answer is a huge benefit,” said senior author Jonathan Casey, MD.
“This data suggests that, on average, providing ECMO to two patients will save a life and give a young person the potential to live for decades.”