ECMO to help with oxygen flow for patients in critical condition

Izah Azahari

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar yesterday responded to questions regarding whether the two COVID-19 patients in critical condition will regain full function of their lungs once they have recovered.

“The infection attacks the lungs. At the beginning, the lungs are compliant and it is easy to breathe, but after a while there are bacteria and pneumonia infections that will cause the lungs to harden – called consolidation, full blown pneumonia,” the minister said.

The healing is up to the patient himself, as the body needs to repair on its own. When this happens, the oxygen exchange will be stunted, causing shortness of breath, he said.

The MoH has given these patients a breathing machine with the addition of the heart-lung machine (ECMO) to add oxygen into their blood.

“What we have done is cultivate, so that the body can heal itself, and what we’re doing now is waiting. We don’t know how long it will take,” he said.

The machine will be able to last for a number of weeks, provided there are no added infections or complications. However, once the body has a multi-system failure, it will be difficult for the body to carry out its own healing.