Patient Registry Tracking COVID-19: ELSO and Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

As we face the continually evolving pandemic of COVID-19, each day brings new challenges and opportunities to learn from our shared experiences. This education is fueled by the hard work and dedication of individual clinicians, care teams, research institutions, and medical specialty societies around the globe.

Coordinated efforts by medical societies and their members have a real impact on our ability to fight against the pandemic. These organizations support the collection, analysis, and proliferation of data about this virus at a global scale.

A global crisis needs global collaboration for a global solution.

ECMO Is Proven to be Effective Treatment for COVID-19 Patients with Severe Respiratory Distress

COVID-19 (the illness caused by the novel coronavirus) causes severe respiratory distress in some patients. Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, commonly referred to as ECMO, is a treatment that uses an artificial heart and lung to support the body when a person’s own organs are too sick to do the job. ECMO itself will not cure a patient’s heart or lungs, but it gives them the time needed to heal.

ECMO has proven to be an effective treatment for COVID-19 patients with severe respiratory distress. In addition to ECMO being an effective therapy in the treatment of severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), it is a recommended rescue therapy in COVID-19 patients in guidelines published by the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

Global ECMO Organization Tracks and Educates on COVID-19

The leading global authority on the use of ECMO is the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO). Its global patient registry is the world’s largest source of data on patients receiving ECMO. ELSO typically supports medical research, continuing education, guidelines development, and device surveillance.

ELSO is uniquely positioned to lead education efforts around the use of Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS) and ECMO as a treatment for COVID-19 patients. Dr. Mark Ogino, president of ELSO, said in a recent video summarizing ELSO’s COVID-19 response:

“We remain a real-time authoritative resource because of ELSO’s global member centers, which provide up-to-date information and data to allow our physicians and scientists to continually edit our recommendations.”

ELSO Registry Tracking ECMO for COVID-19

ELSO provides support to institutions delivering ECLS through the maintenance of a comprehensive registry of patient data. The ELSO Registry tracks the use of ECMO as a life-sustaining therapy in patients with severe cardiac or pulmonary distress. The registry tracks patient outcomes and complications occurring during ECMO for patients across a wide variety of clinical presentations and geographic areas. Registry data is not only used for publication, but also for benchmark reporting so that participating ECMO programs can see how their outcomes compare to average.

ELSO is waiving participation fees for new institutions and sites that would like to participate in these important tracking efforts. Get started here.

ECMO COVID-19 Resources

ELSO has organized resources and collected data from member centers across the world. Each resource shares the lessons learned in the parts of the world most affected by COVID-19.

Top ECMO resources for COVID-19:

ELSO’s coordination and leadership allows physicians and care teams working in areas hit hardest by the pandemic to share best practices, clinical guidelines, and recommended clinical indication and contra-indication for ECMO. This type of open collaboration helps improve care for all.

In addition, ICUs in Italy and China have released checklists aimed at limiting exposure to the virus by physicians during intubation. The coronavirus can spread through aerosol and moisture droplets, so it is especially important to limit physician exposure before, during, and after ECMO.

Global Study on ICU Management of COVID-19 Patients

One of the most important projects being undertaken by ELSO centers and physicians is the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for Coronavirus 19 Acute Respiratory Distress (ECMOCARD) Study. ECMOCARD is a study coordinated by the Asia-Pacific Chapter of ELSO with 104 participating hospitals across 5 continents and 26 countries.

ECMOCARD is currently the only global study to gather data on the ICU management of the sickest and most vulnerable COVID-19 patients. The ECMOCARD study will be an invaluable resource to manage the treatment of COVID-19 patients. In a time when so much is unknown, the value of rigorously documenting and disseminating the lessons learned every day is of immeasurable value. In the words of ELSO’s founder Dr. Robert Bartlett, “Our most important weapon in this crisis is data to predict and plan – on a global scale.”

At a time when each day bring new and unique challenges, it is more important than ever to collect, document and share experience globally; for in an increasingly interconnected world only through cooperation and solidarity can we overcome a global pandemic.

To stay up to date on the latest information regarding the use of ECMO for COVID-19, visit and follow ELSO on Twitter at @ELSOOrg.

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