Seattle Children's Hospital First on West Coast to Offer Life-Saving Mobile ECMO

Mobile heart and lung life-support therapy offered to critically ill children in Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana and Oregon

Seattle Children’s announced today that it is the first children’s hospital on the West Coast to offer mobile extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), an advanced life-support therapy that functions for the heart and lungs when the organs fail or need to rest. The hospital is partnering with Airlift Northwest, the Pacific Northwest’s leading air medical transport provider, to transport critically ill children in Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana and Oregon to Seattle Children’s for specialized cardiac, respiratory or transplant care. Seattle Children’s is one of only a few hospitals in the country that have a pediatric mobile ECMO program.

The mobile ECMO team includes cardiac surgeons, intensivists, perfusionists, intensive care nurses and specialty-trained Airlift Northwest flight nurses. They will travel by ambulance, helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft to reach critically ill children in distant communities who were previously considered too fragile to be transported. The team can transport children who are already on ECMO to Seattle Children’s, or connect a child to ECMO before transport. The team performs extensive simulation training to practice and refine the complex transport process.

“ECMO can be a critically life-sustaining bridge to support very ill children to their next phase of treatment,” said Dr. Michael McMullan, surgical director of cardiac transplant and director of mechanical cardiac support and extracorporeal life support services at Seattle Children’s, as well as an associate professor of surgery at the UW School of Medicine. “Connecting a child to ECMO and providing treatment to get them back to a normal life requires a highly-specialized team. Mobile ECMO allows us to extend our reach and expertise beyond the hospital walls to care for kids in need where they are, underscoring our commitment to provide the best cardiac and respiratory care for children throughout the region.”

ECMO is a form of extracorporeal life support used for a range of life-threatening medical conditions, including complex heart problems that may require heart transplantation. Seattle Children’s has been named a Center of Excellence by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization because of its expertise with technologies like ECMO. Seattle Children’s Heart Center, one of the busiest heart centers in the nation, treats some of the region’s most complex heart disease cases. Seattle Children’s also has one of the largest pediatric heart transplant programs in the country with one of the highest patient survival rates.

“By analyzing data from 2012-2013, we learned that some children in the region may not survive life-threatening illness due to a lack of access to ECMO,” said McMullan. “We were saddened by this reality and are dedicated to doing all we can to save the lives of children in distant communities.”

Patients like 3-year-old Hannah Mae Campbell understand firsthand the importance of having access to ECMO and specialized cardiac care. Born in 2012 with a life-threatening heart condition that caused her heart to grow continuously and beat at a rapid pace, Hannah went into cardiac arrest a few weeks after birth. Her heart was failing, and she was not responding to CPR. To save her life, Hannah’s care team at Seattle Children’s put her on ECMO so the machine could do the work her heart could no longer sustain.

In need of a new heart, Hannah was listed for a heart transplant. Several weeks later, she received the life-saving gift. ECMO had given her the time she needed to build strength and prepare for a new heart. Today, Hannah is thriving and exceeding her developmental milestones.

“We would not have our daughter today if it weren’t for ECMO and the heart transplant,” said Jennifer Campbell, Hannah’s mother. “ECMO gave us hope to get to the critical next step in her care and we want other families to know that you can come out the other side. Hannah is doing amazingly well. She is a beautiful, amazing girl who is sassy and spunky and loves everyone she meets. I feel so grateful to those who saved her life.”

If a hospital is interested in requesting an ECMO transport evaluation, contact the Emergency Department Communication Center at 206-987-8899 or, toll-free, 866-987-8899.

About Seattle Children’s

Seattle Children’s mission is to provide hope, care and cures to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible. Together, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Research Institute and Foundation deliver superior patient care, identify new discoveries and treatments through pediatric research, and raise funds to create better futures for patients.

Ranked as one of the top five children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical center for Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho – the largest region of any children’s hospital in the country. As one of the nation's top five pediatric research centers, Seattle Children’s Research Institute is internationally recognized for its work in neurosciences, immunology, cancer, infectious disease, injury prevention and much more. Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Foundation works with the Seattle Children’s Guild Association, the largest all-volunteer fundraising network for any hospital in the country, to gather community support and raise funds for uncompensated care and research.

For more information, visit seattlechildrens.org or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or on our On the Pulse blog.