International Organization Honors Allegheny General Hospital's Advanced Lifesaving Program for Cardiac and Respiratory Failure

Share Article

Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), part of the Allegheny Health Network, is one of just 20 adult-only medical centers in the United States to receive international recognition for an advanced, innovative program to care for people with failing hearts and lungs. The Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO), an international consortium of healthcare institutions dedicated to the development and evaluation of novel therapies to support failing organ systems, selected AGH’s Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Program as an ELSO-designated Center of Excellence.

Members of the AGH ECMO team

It highlights the dedication and expertise of the key members: the surgical intensive care nurses, perfusionists and critical care physicians who provide the constant bedside care, 24 hours a day.

Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), part of the Allegheny Health Network, is one of just 20 adult-only medical centers in the United States to receive international recognition for an advanced, innovative program to care for people with failing hearts and lungs. The Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO), an international consortium of healthcare institutions dedicated to the development and evaluation of novel therapies to support failing organ systems, selected AGH’s Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Program as an ELSO-designated Center of Excellence.

ECMO is a form of therapy that allows failing heart and lungs to continue functioning while they recover, in the same way a crutch provides support for a broken leg as the bone mends. “When your heart or lungs are damaged, they still need to work every second in order to keep your body alive,” explained Subbarao Elapavaluru, MD, Medical Director of the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit at AGH. “ECMO is a way to support your heart and/or lungs while your body is healing or a determination for the best course of future care is being made.”

There are two main types of ECMO: Veno-venous (VV) ECMO therapy provides respiratory support by resting damaged lungs while oxygenating and removing carbon dioxide from the venous blood, thus reducing further damage to the lungs while they heal. Veno-arterial (VA) ECMO gives cardiac and respiratory support to patients in cardiogenic shock or complete pulmonary failure. It is utilized as a bridge to recovery or to a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) or heart transplant.

“For a patient with heart issues, VA ECMO can provide support as physicians decide whether the patient requires a transplant, an LVAD or just rest so the patient can recover after suffering a massive heart attack,” said William Gil, BS, CCP, LP, Chief of Perfusion at Allegheny Health Network (AHN). “VV ECMO is often utilized for patients whose lungs are damaged due to severe pneumonia, such as that caused by the H1N1 virus.”

Using a multidisciplinary approach that includes Cardiothoracic Surgery, Cardiology, Critical Care, Pulmonary Medicine and perfusion specialists, AGH’s ECMO program has dramatically improved survival rates for patients suffering from cardiogenic shock; previously, almost all patients would have died from the condition. In addition, the hospital’s survival rate for patients with the H1N1 virus is well above the national average, thanks largely to the use of ECMO.

“The ELSO Award signifies to patients and families a commitment to exceptional patient care,” ELSO noted in its letter to AGH announcing the honor. “It also demonstrates to the healthcare community an assurance of high-quality standards, specialized equipment and supplies, defined patient protocols, and advanced education of all staff members.”

Robert J. Moraca, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon and Director of ECMO Services at Allegheny Health Network, said AHN is particularly proud of the ELSO designation because it recognizes the multidisciplinary collaboration that is necessary to provide successful ECMO care.

“In particular, it highlights the dedication and expertise of the key members: the surgical intensive care nurses, perfusionists and critical care physicians who provide the constant bedside care, 24 hours a day,” said Dr. Moraca.

Dating back to the 1980s, AGH had some of the original designs for ECMO. George Magovern, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon and Chair of Allegheny Health Network’s Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, noted that AGH has been able to remain a leader in providing the therapy for three decades.

“We were one of the main centers in the infancy of ECMO, and then we helped to bring it back to the forefront as a way to care for failing hearts and lungs,” said Dr. Magovern. “We’re proud to be one of the few centers in the world to receive a Center of Excellence designation.”

Dr. Moraca said the ELSO recognition allows AGH to honor a man who played a critical role in the program’s success, the late Ian Rosenberg, CCP, LP, who was Chief of Perfusion at AGH from 1973 to 2014.

“We dedicate the ELSO Center of Excellence Award to Ian for his years of service and commitment to the AGH ECMO Program,” said Dr. Moraca.

About Allegheny Health Network
Allegheny Health Network, part of Highmark Health, is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the Western Pennsylvania region. The Network is comprised of eight hospitals, including its flagship academic medical center Allegheny General Hospital, Allegheny Valley Hospital, Canonsburg Hospital, Forbes Hospital, Jefferson Hospital, Saint Vincent Hospital, Westfield Memorial Hospital and West Penn Hospital; a research institute; Health + Wellness Pavilions; an employed physician organization, home and community based health services and a group purchasing organization. The Network employs approximately 17,500 people and has more than 2,100 physicians on its medical staff. The Network also serves as a clinical campus for Temple University School of Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Share article on socal media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Doug Braunsdorf
Allegheny Health Network
+1 412-522-7112
Email >