The unborn baby of a 24-week pregnant woman, who was suffering from swine flu, was saved using the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) procedure at a private hospital in the city. According to doctors, the case was extremely complex as the baby could not be delivered prematurely, but had to be protected from the virus while in the womb. The woman is supposed to deliver the baby towards the end of March.
The ECMO device provides heart-lung bypass support outside the baby’s body. A pump is used to circulate blood through an artificial lung back into the bloodstream of a very ill baby, especially those awaiting a heart or lung transplant. The same was carried out on the foetus.
“There was a risk of the mother developing bleeding complications and losing the child. She came to the hospital with persistent cough and breathlessness. But her symptoms worsened over the course of a day and her blood oxygen levels were extremely low,” said Dr Vineeta Goyal, senior consultant, department of critical care, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute.
Doctors said her breathing became progressively laboured and she had to be immediately put on ventilator support. “When the predicted chances of survival for both the mother and child fell considerably, the patient’s family was given the option for the ECMO procedure… Complications, both maternal and foetal, were explained to the family,” added Dr Goyal. The patient was discharged on January 26.
“In some patients, simply using a ventilator doesn’t help as the lungs are badly affected. Using the ECMO machine in such cases can prove extremely helpful. The machine helps in providing prolonged cardiac and lung support by acting as an artificial heart and lungs,” said Dr Karan Madaan, associate professor, department of pulmonology, AIIMS.
As many as 87 fresh cases of H1N1 Influenza were reported from the capital on Monday, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 1,506 this season. While the state government has reported a single death from the city, two Centre-run hospitals, RML and Safdarjung, have reported 17 deaths this year.
The daily status report by the Directorate General of Health Services also states no government hospital has a testing facility for swine flu and that reports are being sent to the National Centre for Disease Control for confirmation.
At a recent state-level review meeting, medical superintendents of hospitals raised the issue. “It is important to have facilities at our hospitals so that samples can be confirmed at the earliest. We have proposed the same to top officials and they agreed. We hope to get the facility before the next season,” said Dr Sunil Kumar, medical director of GTB Hospital.