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M Health Fairview ECMO life support program recognized for international excellence

For decades, M Health Fairview experts have been leaders in the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to save lives across Minnesota.
In February 2020, M Health Fairview partnered with the University of Minnesota and Helmsley Charitable Trust to launch a 24/7 mobile service to bring experts and life-support equipment directly to people in cardiac arrest. This and other innovations have earned our extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) program international recognition.

Ben O’Donnell was a healthy 38-year-old triathlete until COVID-19 ravaged his lungs. To save his life, doctors put him on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a heart-and-lung bypass device.

Now, the same care team that helped O’Donnell and other COVID-19 patients is receiving an international award for excellence in life support. This month, the M Health Fairview M Health Fairview ECMO program was recognized with a Gold-Level Centers of Excellence Award from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO).

ELSO is an international non-profit consortium of healthcare institutions dedicated to the development and evaluation of innovative therapies for support of failing organ systems. ELSO awards are recognized by the U.S. News and World Report and Parents magazine as one benchmark for top institutions. 

The M Health Fairview program received the award by demonstrating excellence in patient care by using the highest-quality measures, processes, and structures based upon evidence. ELSO also recognized M Health Fairview for excellence in training, education, collaboration, and communication that contribute to a healing environment for families, patients and staff.

ECMO is a treatment that uses a pump to circulate blood through an artificial lung back into the bloodstream of a very ill person.

“This Gold COE award speaks volumes about the work done by the bedside ECMO Specialists and ICU nurses, the perfusionists, pharmacists and physical therapists, and the intensivists and cannulating physicians that make our program successful,” said Critical Care Surgeon Melissa Brunsvold, MD, FACS, who also serves as the system medical director for the ECMO program.

In addition to its use in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, the University of Minnesota in partnership with the Helmsley Charitable Trust and M Health Fairview launched a mobile ECMO program in February to extend care to more Minnesotans by providing quicker access to life-saving treatment.

“Awards like this are an important indicator for our patients, their families, our communities, and our peers that we are committed to providing exceptional patient care,” said Senior Director of Adult Nursing Services Sandy Alexander.