Pediatric ECMO Program: The high-volume program maintains excellent outcomes

Lauren Hooker
February 01, 2023
Laura Hollinger MD

The Pediatric ECMO Program at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital continues to deliver exceptional patient care for critically ill children. In 2020, the program received the Platinum Level Award for Excellence in Life Support from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO), an international consortium of centers offering ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) for support of failing organ systems in infants, children and adults. To date, the program remains in the top quartile for pediatric ECMO volumes nationally, and patient survival exceeds or equals the national benchmark in all categories when matched with similar high-volume centers. 


“We take great pride in maintaining excellent outcomes when challenged with high patient volume and complexity,” said Laura Hollinger, M.D., medical director of the MUSC Pediatric ECMO Program. “Our team performed over 100 procedures during pediatric extracorporeal life support last year, and nearly half of our patients had no ECMO-related complications.” 


According to Dr. Hollinger, the pediatric ECMO program can achieve these remarkable milestones through the highly-specialized and dedicated multidisciplinary team at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital. Multidisciplinary engagement in the pediatric ECMO program fosters a culture of safety through monthly case review, continuing education programs, and simulation scenarios based on challenging cases.


Close collaboration with Monika Collins, ECMO nurse manager, ensures a team-based approach to both bedside patient care as well as program development, longitudinal growth projections, and of course,contingency planning. “As the only ECMO resource for children in South Carolina, our goal is to ensure outcomes remain excellent for these particularly vulnerable patients and we remain viewed as the flagship example of a Center of Excellence in Life Support”.


The ECMO Leadership Team secured funding for the BioMed Simulation’s Califia ECMO physiologic response system this past year. This educational training system simulates infant, pediatric, and adult patient scenarios with realistic hemodynamic and respiratory changes during extracorporeal support. The simulator will be incorporated starting this Spring, with training modules available for physicians, nurses, and perfusion specialists. 


“We are deeply grateful for the support from the Emerson Rose Foundation and the Women’s and Children’s, Acute Care Trauma and Heart and Vascular ICCE leadership for supporting this incredible educational initiative,” said Dr. Hollinger. “Physiologic simulation will directly improve quality of care at the bedside, and benefits all specialists caring for this vulnerable population.” 


In addition to quality improvement, rigorous benchmarking and educational curricula, the Pediatric ECMO program remains dedicated to research. There are currently eight ongoing multicenter clinical trials for ECMO patients at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital. The MUSC pediatric ECMO program published 24 peer-reviewed journal articles over the past two years and authors gave 22 oral and poster presentations at national meetings, including five physician trainees and two MUSC medical students.


The team is looking forward to the upcoming ELSO Center of Excellence review process, which occurs every three years. “Due to COVID restrictions in 2020, we did not have the opportunity for a site visit” she explained. “I’m looking forward to a site review this Spring and the opportunity to showcase our team’s accomplishments as we continue to seek new opportunities to improve patient care for the state’s most critically ill children.”