When a Respiratory Infection Turns Deadly

October 15, 2015

ECMO technology replaces lung function until a child can breathe again

BACKGROUND: With every winter comes the usual list of serious respiratory infections such as flu and RSV that can put kids in the hospital. Add to those a more recent threat known as enterovirus D68 — an infection that since August has been causing unusually severe respiratory illness in children around the country, including Texas.

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes children become so sick with respiratory infections that they require a technology called ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, to survive. ECMO is a device that does the work of the lungs — and sometimes the heart — until the body heals to the point it can resume those functions on its own.

The highly skilled team of ECMO specialists from UT Kids — the pediatric group from the UT Health Science Center San Antonio — recently moved to University Health System. This team is experienced in using ECMO for a wider range of life-threatening conditions than many programs, including respiratory infections, trauma and burns, high-risk births involving congenital defects, and more. The physicians helped develop national guidelines for ECMO and routinely conduct research to improve outcomes for young ECMO patients.

On Oct. 15, the team will conduct an exercise to prepare for the start of cold and flu season, using simulators and state-of-the-art equipment to make sure each team member knows his or her role down to the second when a critically-ill child arrives.

WHO: Dr. Curtis Froehlich, associate professor of pediatrics at the UT Health Science Center and medical director of the ECMO program at University Hospital; members of the ECMO team.

WHEN: 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15

WHERE: University Hospital, 4502 Medical Drive. Parking may be available at the Sky Tower patient drop-off. Additional parking is available in the nearby North Garage. Meet in the lobby for an escort to the Pediatric ICU.