More than 200 COVID patients have been treated with ECMO at the FCV

  • Between June 2020 and December 2021, the FCV has treated more than 200 patients in the ECMO ICU with a technology that temporarily replaces the lung function and helps recovery. 
  • In 2021 it was necessary to increase the intalled capacity, going from it 8 to 24 cubicles. The ECMO ICU team also grew and today is conformed by 150 people.
  • Currently, the FCV is the only Latin American hospital recognized as a Center of Excellence Platinum Level, the highest distinction granted by the ELSO to the centers that offer this therapy.

Bucaramanga, January 2022. Two years after the beginning of the pandemic due to COVID-19, Fundación Cardiovascular de Colombia has established itself as the Latin American institution that has treated more patients with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO): more than 200 people have accessed this technology that can replace artificially and temporarily the function of the lungs.

In June 2020, the first COVID patient was admitted to the FCV’s ECMO ICU, since then the institution has worked to expand its capacity. In 2021, more than 130 people were treated. "Last year was very challenging for everyone. We had intense and long peak periods, where the ECMO was required for critical patients, says Dr. Leonardo Salazar Rojas, Director of the ECMO and Artificial Heart program at the FCV.

Patients who need this therapy, which is used when none of the traditional methods work, have an 80% chance of dying. The situation is more complex considering that the global availability of ECMO is not very wide. "The ECMO units in the world are usually small, and almost none centers in the world treated more than 60 patients. At the FCV, we treated 130  patients, and 84 of those have survived. Thanks to this therapy we reduced significantly the mortality’’, says Dr. Salazar Rojas.

Positive Results

To care for those who struggled between life and death, the FCV increased 3 times its capacity in a year. The ECMO ICU went from 8 cubicles to 24, which were fully enabled in April 2021, with hard work and contributions that were received through the campaign '’Tú también puedes ser un héroe’'.

Besides the expansion of facilities and the acquisition of equipment, the team of specialists was strengthened. "We received 6 specialists and trained a large number of nurses, therapists, nursing assistants, among other professionals. In total, we conformed a team of more than 150 people; it was a year of hard work and great challenges’’, says the Director of the ECMO and Artificial Heart program at the FCV.

The effort continues and the FCV, together with its team of professionals, remains in constant preparation to continue facing the pandemic. 

"With an area that already has a high volume of patients, all the time we are training and retraining staff, maintaining all the skills of the group, renewing employees -because it is a very large group- and there is no rest. It’s a continuous preparation", says Moreno. ELSO’s Recognition

The Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO), an organization that assembles all the hospitals in the world that use ECMO therapy, awarded the FCV in 2021 the recognition as a Center of Excellence Platinum Level, the higher distinction that ECMO centers can achieve.

Currently, more than 400 hospitals are part of the ELSO network, which promotes education, research, and quality through the evaluation of results. The FCV is the only hospital in Latin America that currently has this distinction.