Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center First Hospital in the World to Use Innovative ECMO Technology to Treat Patient with COVID-19

March 3, 2021

Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center has become the first hospital in the world to use a new extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) system to treat and improve breathing for a patient with COVID-19. The treatment, called the Abiomed Breethe OXY-1 System™ (“Breethe”), is an advanced compact cardiopulmonary bypass system that pumps, oxygenates, and removes carbon dioxide from the blood for patients whose lungs can no longer provide sufficient oxygenated blood to the major organs.

The patient, a 51-year-old woman with respiratory failure due to COVID-19, began Breethe therapy on December 19. The patient was on a ventilator at the time of implant. The goal of Breethe therapy is to allow the lungs to heal and hopefully recover faster than ventilator therapy alone. After 24 hours of Breethe support, she was stable and improving. She was treated by Dr. Yuriy Dudiy, attending cardiac surgeon and Mark Anderson, MD, interim chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery and a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Heart and Vascular Hospital at Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center. “Breethe is an important new option for patients with COVID-19 who require ECMO therapy. It is simple and intuitive to use, highly portable, and a very promising therapy with the potential to help many patients,” said Dr. Anderson.

Patients are placed on the Breethe system temporarily to support their lung function by taking unoxygenated blood out of the body, circulating it through the oxygenator in the system, and pumping oxygenated blood back into the body to be distributed to the major organs. The system is only used in the hospital. Patients can be on support for days or weeks depending on their condition. Breethe supports lung recovery so patients can be weaned off the system and live with their native lungs without assistance.

The Breethe system received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October. In addition to COVID-19, it can help provide oxygenation to patients suffering from cardiogenic shock or respiratory failure from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), H1N1 influenza, or SARS. When used with the Impella® heart pump, it can allow the heart to rest and oxygenate the body, a combination therapy known as ECpella.

“We are excited to be one of only six impressive cardiac surgery programs in the world to be selected to trial the new Breethe system and the first in the world to use it to help a patient with COVID-19,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health. “This achievement underscores Hackensack Meridian Health’s commitment to give our patients the very best care in the fight against COVID-19 infection.”

“Hackensack Meridian Health has long been a leader in the implementation of the most advanced technologies based on the latest medical research, and our adoption of Breethe therapy is yet another example of our dedication to being at the forefront of patient care,” added Ihor Sawczuk, MD, FACS, Hackensack Meridian Health regional president, Northern Market and chief research officer.

“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our communities, so everything we can do to fight back is a win. We welcome Breethe into our arsenal of therapies we use to support patients with COVID-19 who are fighting for their lives,” said Mark Sparta, FACHE, president and chief hospital executive, Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center and executive vice president of Population Health, Hackensack Meridian Health.