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Rush Honored for Excellence in Life Support

Rush Honored for Excellence in Life Support

(CHICAGO) – For those who are so critically ill because their hearts and lungs are failing, the only hope for a second chance at life rests in the hands of a team of experts in the intensive care unit who are skilled at applying the use of an artificial heart and lung bypass machine called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

This life-saving machine, known by its acronym ECMO, provides relief to the patient’s own heart and lungs so the vital organs can heal. ECMO puts oxygen in the patient’s blood and helps pump the blood back into the body. A pump circulates blood through a circuit of tubing supporting heart function and through an oxygenator, which functions as an artificial lung. It is used to help patients of all ages with life-threatening diseases that impair heart and/or lung function. While ECMO is often used with patients waiting for heart or lung transplant, most patients who need ECMO are almost certain to die without this level of support.

On July 5, Rush University Medical Center received the ELSO Award for Excellence in Life Support — the most prestigious designation in critical care by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization. Rush is the only full-service adult and pediatric academic medical center in Chicago and Illinois to receive the  Gold Level Center of Excellence designation.

ELSO is an international consortium of health care professionals and scientists dedicated to the development and evaluation of new therapies for supporting failing organ systems.

Commitment to exceptional patient care

This award is given only to ECMO services that show a commitment to exceptional patient care, have the highest level of quality standards including specialized equipment and supplies, defined patient protocols and advanced education of all staff members.

“ECMO is managed on a moment-to-moment basis by adult and pediatric intensivists and ECMO specialists — ICU nurses and respiratory therapists who have completed specialized advanced training," said Dr. Robert Balk, director of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Rush.

The ECMO team at Rush includes adult and pediatric surgeons, critical care and pulmonary medical experts, perfusionists, pharmacists, nutritionists, respiratory therapists, social workers, case managers, blood bank staff and others who are essential to caring for ECMO patients.

The Rush ECMO program continues to expand, and the goal is to provide the same quality care for both pediatric and adult patients.

"We can reach patients in need of ECMO throughout Chicago and the suburbs, who may be hospitalized somewhere they do not have the equipment or personnel necessary to initiate ECMO," said Dr. Rashid Ahmad, section head of cardiac surgery at Rush.

One of city's busiest ECMO centers

“Rush’s ECMO program also developed a way to successfully get patients to be mobile — to stand up and walk around, which has proven to improve the recovery process, decreases the need for sedation, risk of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers and ventilator-associated pneumonias as well as reduces the number of ICU days,” Balk said.

“Our use of progressive mobility has allowed our patients to be more awake, which has not only allowed their family members to interact with them more frequently, it has also allowed the patient to actively participate in their own recovery,” said Balk.

“We are tracking data on the progressive mobility advantages in order to analyze its impact on our program’s outcomes, as well institutional quality metrics,” Ahmad said.

"As one of the busiest ECMO centers in Chicago, Rush is routinely consulted regarding ECMO-dependent patients who require advanced organ-failure therapy," Balk said. "Often, ECMO is begun by another facility, and then the patient is transported to our facility because of our capacity to provide other advanced treatment options or long-term mechanical circulatory support.” 


Deb Song