Mar 06, 2024

DHR Health Celebrates One-Year Milestone with RGV’s Only ECMO Program, Setting New Standard in Advanced Life Support

Mar 06, 2024

DHR Health Celebrates One-Year Milestone with RGV’s Only ECMO Program, Setting New Standard in Advanced Life Support

Edinburg, Texas: DHR Health is proud to announce the one-year anniversary of its extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) program, marking a significant milestone in advanced patient care for the Rio Grande Valley. Serving as the only hospital in the region to offer a life-saving system like ECMO, DHR Health is pleased to commemorate its achievement with a special press conference to be held at 10:00 a.m. on March 6, 2024, at the Edinburg Conference Center of Renaissance located at 118 Paseo del Prado.

ECMO is the most advanced life support system in the world used for critically ill patients with cardiac or respiratory failure. The system works by temporarily replacing the function of the heart and lungs, oxygenating the patient’s blood outside the body, then returning it back to the patient’s body. This process provides support to the patient’s organs while allowing time for recovery or while awaiting further treatment.

For patients and their families, ECMO serves as a ray of hope when ventilators and medications for blood pressure fail to sustain life. In these extreme cases, ECMO becomes the last resource capable of extending or even saving a life, with an overall survival of 50% for patients otherwise anticipated to not survive. Dr. Andrew Phillips, a Mission native returned to the Rio Grande Valley in 2021 to start the program, which launched in February 2023. He serves as medical director of the ECMO program at DHR Health.

“Patients in the Rio Grande Valley now have the same access to the most advanced life support interventions as patients in other metropolitan areas—as they should, said Dr. Phillips, who completed his residency and fellowship at Stanford University and was faculty in the cardiothoracic intensive care unit at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before returning to the Valley. “The equipment and techniques used at DHR Health are the same as these highly regarded institutions,” he added.

When a patient undergoes ECMO placement, a multidisciplinary team of specialized medical experts, including intensivists, pulmonologists, cardiologists, perfusionists, nurses and others, work together to help stabilize the patient. Following cannulation, whether through the neck, chest or groin, the patient receives ongoing support from a highly trained medical team, including additional staff at bedside 24 hours a day, who are specifically trained in ECMO management.

The ECMO program also plays an important role in DHR Health’s designation as a Level I Trauma Center. “ECMO is very necessary to a Level 1 Trauma Center because you can’t really say you’re doing everything possible for patients without the support of ECMO,” explained DHR Health Level 1 Trauma Director Dr. Jeffrey Skubic. “It is rare that you need it, but when you do, the patient will die without it.”

DHR Health also assists other hospitals in the region to transfer patients for ECMO, including bringing the ECMO team to facilities to start ECMO there if the patient is too unstable to travel without it.

At the event, ECMO patients and their families will reunite with the dedicated DHR Health physicians and staff members who provided their treatment and support. Making an appearance will be Jose E. Altamirano Brown, who was supported by ECMO for more than a month and is now enjoying life with his wife, April, and 6 month old son.

Additionally, the DHR Health Intensivists Group and Registered Nurse Martin Alvarado, will be honored with respective awards. The DHR Health Intensivists Group, will be honored with The Phillip Mason Award, which is named after a critical care physician from San Antonio who worked closely with DHR Health to help set up the ECMO Program. Nurse Alvarado will be honored with The Bernadette Elliott Award, which is named after a nurse ECMO specialist from San Antonio who also worked closely with DHR Health to also help set up the program. Both Dr. Mason and Nurse Elliott will be in attendance at the event to help present the awards.

For questions about the ECMO program, please call (956) 362-3266 (ECMO).