ECMO Used as Flu Treatment



Flu Worries

Flu Worries

A new method of treatment is being used across seven hospitals across the UK for the Flu. The highly specialised treatment called Extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) helps patients whose lungs or heart are not working properly and uses an artificial lung to oxygenate blood outside the body.

Europe’s largest centre with ECMO technology is based at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. There are currently only seven NHS hospitals in the UK currently capable of providing ECMO: Glenfield, Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London, Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, the Royal Brompton in London and the University Hospital in south Manchester.

The most seriously ill babies, children and adults are being treated there for respiratory disease caused by flu. The most serious cases of flu are being treated at these locations for the respiratory disease that is caused as a side effect of the flu virus. This treatment offering their bodies the chance to battle the virus, with the treatment being used for babies, children and adults.

The use of the ECMO beds has shown a sharp increase from five in early December, this number increasing to 22 by Christmas Eve. With more beds now being arranged by cancelling scheduled operations in a bid to expand the number of beds available for this use as a huge surge of cases is expected now workplaces and schools have resumed normal business after the Christmas break. ECMO is used when a conventional breathing machine or ventilator can no longer oxygenate adequately and clear carbon dioxide. An external “lung” performs this function instead, giving the patient’s lungs a chance to rest.

The ECMO is being used only for the most severe cases, where lung failure is expected and no other treatment is available. In a normal year, the two main groups treated by ECMO are premature babies and the elderly with respiratory problems and pneumonia. If a patient stays on ECMO for up to six weeks, the cost is about £55,000-£105,000 per patient.

With suggestions that the country is under prepared and running low on the Flu vaccine things could go from bad to worse, however the government insists that the stock levels of the vaccine are normal for the time of year.

“The advice remains that if you are a normally healthy adult and you think you have symptoms of flu, contact NHS Direct for advice,” a spokesman said.

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