ECMO saves lives in WNC

Make no mistake, ECMO at Mission Hospital in Asheville is a lifesaver. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Make no mistake, ECMO at Mission Hospital in Asheville is a lifesaver.

ECMO means extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Also called extracorporeal life support, it's an extracorporeal (outside the body) technique for providing prolonged cardiac and respiratory support to people whose heart and lungs are in trouble.

"We use it for patients with either a failing heart, failing lungs or both," Dr. Daniel Mulloy, a cardiac and thoracic surgeon, explained.

Barbara Stott came to the hospital for a heart valve repair and a heart valve replacement.

"The third day after my surgery, I aspirated," she recalled, meaning contents from her stomach entered her lungs. "They put me in a medically induced coma and put me on the ECMO machine."

"What it does is drains blood out of a patient, circulates it through a pump, and through an oxygenator," said Mulloy.

Stott insisted that, "If hadn't been for this machine, I would have died."

"After about five to seven days, she was able to come off the ECMO and had a complete recovery," Mulloy added.

Stott was the first ECMO patient at Mission, but by no means will she be the last.

The device is providing a second chance at life for patients like Stott, who doctors say would almost certainly have died without it.

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