Four days without a heartbeatbut patient fine before operation

CHENNAI It has been four days since the heart of a 56dayold man stopped beating Relatives took him to a city hospital but over 96 hours later and without his heart being revived his condition is stable as he waits for doctors to operate on him

A small machine has taken over the functions of the patients heart and lungs The machine cleanses his blood by infusing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide It will serve as a lifeline for at least a month till he gets a transplant or recovers naturally Doctors at Fortis Malar Hospital on Tuesday said they have been using the extra corporeal membrane oxygenation ECMO machine for close to a year on patients aged between two days and 80 years One patient walked home after being on the machine for 34 days said Dr K R Balakrishnan director of cardiac science at the hospital

quotIt was surprising initially because the patients hearts and lungs had stoppedquot he said quotWe should have seen their bodies stiffen in rigor mortis Instead they were speaking on their cellphones reading newspapers and going about their daily business from their hospital bedsquot

The machine he said had been extremely helpful while treating H1N1 patients with severe respiratory distress

Patients are attached to an ECMO machine when they suffer severe respiratory failure or cardiac arrest The blood is pumped outside the body through the ECMO unit cleansed and then pumped back into the body Doctors say it is different from conventional ventilators that work only if there is residual lung function

Doctors at Fortis Malar say the machine has allowed them to treat extremely sick patients quotIt has saved around 50 of patients who in our opinion would otherwise have not survivedquot said Dr R Ravi Kumar a senior consultant in interventional cardiology

The machine gives patients a better shot at recovery quotIt gives doctors the time to stabilise the patient and plan treatment optionsquot Dr Balakrishnan said quotThe machine also gives patients the time to be put on a waiting list for a heart transplantquot

Hospitals in India are increasingly using ECMO machines to treat patients with H1N1 Patients who develop serious complications need to stay for a long time in the intensive care unit but many get back to normal with ECMO support doctors said Doctors in the city say all hospitals should ideally have ECMO machines but the device is expensive and requires an extremely welltrained team to use it for treatment

The machine is meant for single use and costs Rs 15 lakh Patients who are put on the machine usually need to stay in hospital for extended periods Though some patients can be sent home with the devices attached to them doctors say it is safer for them to stay in hospital quotPower cuts and traffic jams could be extremely dangerous for patients hooked up to the machine and sent homequot said Dr Balakrishnan

Date : 23 May, 2012
Reference : timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/Four-days-without-a-heartbeatbut-patient-fine-before

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