Tiny Baby Marks Big Milestone: 1,000th ECMO Patient Treated

Published on 
November 9, 2011

2-Day-Old Boy Becomes 1,000th Patient Receives Life-Saving Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Technology at Children's Hospital Los Angeles

On Sun., Oct. 30, an Emergency Transport Helicopter rushed 2-day-old Dorion Freeman to the Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit (NICCU) at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Suffering from severe respiratory failure, Dorion was diagnosed with meconium aspiration syndrome, a serious condition in which a newborn inhales meconium and amniotic fluid into the lungs during delivery. To save his life, specialists placed him on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation also known as ECMO

Similar to a heart-lung bypass machine used for open-heart surgery, ECMO is a heart-lung bypass system that takes over circulatory and respiratory functions in infants whose systems fail. It is a life-saving surgical and medical treatment for a variety of issues, such as meconium aspiration syndrome, sepsis, respiratory distress syndrome, persistent pulmonary hypertension, pneumonia or a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. 

"ECMO is an incredible technology that has saved countless lives through the support of hundreds of health care providers here at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles," said Philippe Friedlich, MD, Children’s Hospital NICCU medical director and associate professor of Pediatrics and Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

"For the past quarter of a decade, we have worked very hard to provide this level of support. Because of this technology and our dedicated ECMO team, Dorion will go home in the next few weeks and be able to live a healthy, normal life."Home to the largest ECMO Program in the state, the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles ECMO team annually treats an average of 40 patients. Dorion is the program's 1,000th ECMO patient treated at Children’s Hospital. 

Typically used as a last-resort when the infant is not responding to standard treatment, ECMO technology increases survival rate by up to 80 percent.

ECMO requires two staff specialists at the patient’s bedside 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as well as a team consisting of neonatologists, pediatric surgeons, perfusionists, ECMO nurse specialists, cardiologists, neuro-radiologists, respiratory care practitioners and pediatric emergency transport specialists, along with numerous other staff who provide support along a patient's journey of care. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles houses a wide range of pediatric subspecialists under one roof, enabling the ECMO Program to treat the most difficult of cases. 

Established in 1987, the ECMO Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles will celebrate its 25th anniversary in January. It remains the largest referral center in Southern California and surrounding states for the treatment of neonatal conditions requiring ECMO support. 

Thanks to the technology and a team of highly specialized physicians in one of the nation’s top NICCU's, Dorion was taken off ECMO on Friday and is expected to make a full recovery.