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Vanderbilt LifeFlight personnel recently received training on using advanced cardiac devices in transport settings, devices that were historically found only at hospitals like VUMC. The devices can mean the difference between life and death for patients before they reach the hospital.
The training event, which was held at Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital and the Lebanon Municipal Airport in November 2022, was a partnership of LifeFlight and VUMC’s Temporary Mechanical Circulatory Support (TMCS) Committee, a multidisciplinary, multi- departmental group committed to standardizing practice around temporary invasive support devices. The committee has representation from cardiac surgery, cardiology, interventional cardiology, Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute (VHVI) quality administration, pharmacy, heart failure and ECMO.
Content experts from the committee trained LifeFlight personnel on the use of ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a life-sustaining mechanical system that temporarily takes over for the heart and lungs of critically ill patients, allowing them to rest and recover. Operating for more than three decades, VUMC’s ECMO program is the first and largest in Middle Tennessee and one of the largest in the nation.
Other cardiac devices that were part of the training were the Intra-Aortic Balloon pump, percutaneous ventricular devices (p-VAD), and continuous flow ex-vivo support therapies.
Such devices have been used for years in hospital settings, but are becoming more common in some transport settings, such as LifeFlight’s ground ambulances and fixed-wing aircraft.
Using the devices in a mobile setting requires additional care and training because the devices are sensitive and could fail if they move excessively and are not placed precisely on the patient.
“In ICU settings, these devices are static,” said Austin Pierce, EMT-P, FP-C, clinical education facilitator for LifeFlight. “They are at the bedside and typically don’t move unless the patient goes somewhere. But in the transport environment, not only do you have that complex patient, now all the stuff is fluid. It’s moving. You have a much higher chance of these devices becoming dislodged.”