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Improving Outcomes for Patients Requiring Extracorporeal Life Support

Professor Carol Hodgson, Institution: Monash University

2017 Partnership Engagement Grant

Years funded: 2018-2021


Severe heart failure and cardiac arrest remain major causes of death in our community. Traditional treatment with drugs and standard resuscitation are associated with high failure rates.
 The use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) involves circulating all of the patient’s blood through large cannula to external machinery every minute and represents a new potentially life saving treatment option for these patients. It has the capability of completely replacing a non-functioning heart for days to weeks on end. The use of ECMO has doubled in Australia and globally over five years, particularly in patients following a cardiac arrest, acute heart failure or as a bridge to a heart transplant, without key information about best practice or patient outcomes.

ECMO patients cost on average AUD $146,956 per admission or AUD $48.3 million annually. Currently we have no systematic data in Australia on the use of ECMO, the outcomes of patients or the differences in centres with regards to training and resources. Therefore, the aims of this research are to determine the current practice, risk factors and outcomes for patients requiring ECMO and temporary cardiac support.

This project will better inform patient and clinician decision-making and given the high associated costs and need for specialised resources/expertise, these data are urgently required to facilitate this planning and to develop guidelines and policy.

The outcomes of this research program will, for the first time in Australia:
  1. provide an accurate measure of the burden of patients requiring ECMO for cardiovascular failure
  2. measure the implementation and translation of new interventions during ECMO and
  3. determine the quality of survival and
  4. benchmark practice in Australia and internationally to reduce health care, community and societal costs
  5. build international collaborations to develop guidelines for the care of these patients.

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