OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the experiences and results from inter-hospital transportation of patients with acute respiratory failure on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). DESIGN: Observational, descriptive study. SETTING: Tertiary referral center in a University Hospital. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: When standard ECMO criteria were fulfilled and the patient considered too unstable for a conventional transport, the mobile ECMO team cannulated the patient for ECMO at the referring hospital. The patients were then transported to our ECMO center by ground ambulance, helicopter or fixed-wing vehicle. Patients were also transported on ECMO from our ECMO center to other centers due to shortage of available ECMO beds. RESULTS: 29 patients (15 neonates, seven pediatric, and seven adult patients) with acute respiratory failure were transported on ECMO on a total of 30 occasions. Median time from arrival of the ECMO team at the referring hospital until the patient was on ECMO (28 patients) was 2.2 h (range 1.25-4.25 h). The median time that the transport team was out was 10 h (range 5.5-36.5 h) and the median time with the patient was 6 h (range 3-30.5 h). The distance of transport ranged from 4-1,500 km. Six transports were international. No patient complications occurred during the transports. Two technical complications related to the transport vehicle were encountered. One ambulance compressor malfunctioned. During one helicopter transport, one out of two electric supply circuits malfunctioned. The patients were not affected. Twenty-one of the 29 patients survived to discharge (72%). None of the deaths was transport related. CONCLUSIONS: Tertiary intensive care units and ECMO centers require a dedicated transport team. ECMO transports can be performed safely for all age groups for long distances, probably throughout most of Europe.
Comment In: Intensive Care Med. 2002 Jun;28(6):80212269239