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East African Medical Journal

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Introducing ECMO/ECLS in sub-Saharan Africa – prospects and perspectives

J Swol, R Jutley, G Capatos, F Nyabadza, J Lelo

Abstract


Background: The introduction of modern medical technologies reduced mortality in adults and increased survival in infants less than five years old. Cardiac and respiratory failure can be managed through mechanical circulatory support devices such as ECMO/ECLS (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation/ Extracorporeal Life Support).

Main Findings: We evaluate the importance and potential impact of using ECMO/ECLS in improving health care in sub-Saharan Africa. The intention of this recommendation is to introduce this concept as a feasible rescue method for clinicians in the region. The potential use of ECMO/ECLS will be discussed with focus on infrastructure for the retrieval services from the referring hospitals to designated ECMO centres.

Conclusion: ECLS resources and time that should be committed to training of staff and on-going education should not be underestimated. ECLS should only be commenced, maintained and weaned in the hands of trained, experienced and knowledgeable medical personnel cognisant that the results will be benchmarked by ELSO (Extracorporeal Life Support Organization) and available for consumption in the public domain. Partnership models are key to the ECLS success with well-defined roles and responsibilities for each party. The possible way for ECMO/ECLS in Africa should be combining with a two-pronged education programme: Improving critical care services in themselves, and once they get to an acceptable level in this department then is to manage ECLS patients for a few hours. To upgrade critical care services, this is vital for Africa, and only then to introduce ECMO/ECLS.




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