Methodist Hospital
February 22, 2022

Methodist Hospital is the first facility in the world to treat patients on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) life-support with a revolutionary cannula technology. The multi-lumen single cannula is designed to support patients on venovenous (VV) ECMO and other therapies associated with right ventricle failure.

ECMO is a temporary mechanical assistance device that allows for prolonged cardiopulmonary support. Patients who need ECMO have a severe and life-threatening illness that stops their heart or lungs from working properly. ECMO is performed when large bore cannulas are placed into a large vein or artery, located in the chest, neck or groin, to drain blood and return for circulation. The ECMO pump pulls deoxygenated blood from a vein and pushes it into a machine aiding as an artificial lung, or oxygenator. This is where carbon dioxide is removed from the blood and oxygen is added.

Patients with advanced COVID-19 symptoms often present with severely low levels of oxygen with poor response to mechanical ventilators and require VV ECMO to support the respiratory system. The newly designed cannula is placed via the large vein in the neck and provides optimal flow efficiency by draining blood directly from the right side of the heart and returning it into the main lung artery.

“With the previous VV ECMO cannulation, the biggest limitation is providing adequate venous drain and the most oxygenated blood to the pulmonary circulation for saturated oxygen,” commented Chandra Kunavarapu, Medical Director of the Methodist Hospital ECMO Program. “This newly designed cannula is unique in that it drains blood directly from the right atrium and right ventricle and returns to the pulmonary circulation. This will help with right ventricular overload and right heart failure.”

The use of a multi-lumen cannula for VV ECMO offers several advantages for patients such as cannulation with only one cannula, patient comfort and earlier mobilization and physiotherapy. The cannula has drainage and reinfusion ports that mimic the body’s natural flow ratios to minimize recirculation.

“We are proud to be at the forefront of new technologies to provide the best care possible for our sickest patients right here in San Antonio,” commented Dr. Kunavarapu.

Learn more about ECMO