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News > Wounded Soldier saved through use of ECMO machine on AE mission; officials say capability should continue to grow
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 A wounded U.S. Army Soldier, suffering from an injury that affected his lungs, was transported on an aeromedical evacuation mission with the use of an Extra-Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation, or ECMO, machine from Afghanistan to Germany aboard a C-17 Globemaster III.
 
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Wounded Soldier saved through use of ECMO machine on AE mission; officials say capability should continue to grow
Members of the 59th Medical Wing Extra-Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) clinical care support team inspect an ECMO machine during an exercise on July 1, 2009, at Wilford Hall Medical Center, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The ECMO machine is a heart-lung bypass device that circulates and oxygenates the blood, giving diseased or damaged lungs a chance to heal. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett)
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Wounded Soldier saved through use of ECMO machine on AE mission; officials say capability should continue to grow

Posted 11/3/2010   Updated 11/3/2010 Email story   Print story

    


by Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs


11/3/2010 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- On Oct. 21, an aeromedical evacuation mission made history.

A wounded U.S. Army Soldier, suffering from an injury that affected his lungs, was transported on an aeromedical evacuation mission with the use of an Extra-Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation, or ECMO, machine from Afghanistan to Germany aboard a C-17 Globemaster III.

"This is the first time an adult has moved with this support in the aeromedical evacuation system, but not the first ECMO patient to be moved," said Col. (Dr.) William Pollan, Air Mobility Command Deputy Surgeon General at Scott AFB.

The AE mission carrying the Soldier was planned, tasked and command and controlled by the 618th Air and Space Operations Center at Scott AFB. The 618th AOC is the lead agency for worldwide military airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation.

The mission required two aircraft to complete due to the requirements of the patient, said Capt. Sarah Evans, chief of AE operations for the 618th AOC. The mission was completed by C-17 aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

"The specialized lung team originated out of Germany and had to be prepositioned to get the patient ready for flight," Captain Evans said. "A second aircraft was used to lift the team and patient back to Ramstein."

Use of the ECMO machine is not new to the Air Force. Officials at the 59th Medical Wing at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, recognized in September the 25th anniversary of the wing using ECMO for missions.

The ECMO machine provides cardiac and respiratory support primarily to eligible infants and children whose heart and lungs are so severely diseased or damaged that they can no longer serve their function, a 59th MDW Public Affairs news report stated. Wilford Hall Medical Center provides the only long distance ECMO transport option in the world.

"The ECMO pilot unit is at Wilford Hall," Colonel Pollan said. "We have been moving
neonates (newborns) for a number of years using this capability."

The 59th MDW report also addressed the new effort to use the ECMO machine with adult patients -- particularly on AE missions. An official from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio said they performed a review of the Joint Theater Trauma Registry for all the combat casualties and found there were a number of patients who had "very severe lung injuries" who "might have benefited from ECMO."

"We're using that as motivation to expand our existing capability to now be able to take care of adult patients with the same technology," Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jeremy Cannon, medical co-director of the surgical intensive care unit at Brooke AMC said in the report.

"I foresee you will be seeing more and more of these adult moves as success stories such as this past week are read about," Colonel Pollan said. "This capability is not restricted to AE, but can be on any conveyance."

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Raymond Fang, trauma director for Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and the U.S. Air Force Critical Care Air Transport Clinical Director in Europe, said use of the ECMO machine in the future has possibilities.

"ECMO is an extremely specialized capability available at very few medical centers worldwide," Colonel Fang said. "I do not know that it can ever truly be a standard tool worldwide, but a potential goal is to place the capability a select military treatment facilities to support potential AE requirements worldwide. This is akin to what the Wilford Hall pediatric ECMO team does to support global requests."

As for the wounded Soldier, reports show he is recovering in Germany and once recovered, will mostly likely know he was a part of military aeromedical evacuation history.

(Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett, 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs, and Capt. Justin Brockhoff, 618th AOC Public Affairs, contributed to this article.)



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