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Improving access to advanced cardiac arrest therapies (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)) for patients in prolonged cardiac arrest

The University of Sydney

  • Cardiovascular Early-Mid Career Researcher Grant
Date Funded:
  • 28 November, 2023
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Associate Professor Mark Dennis

What is the issue for NSW?

Over 25,000 people in Australia suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest each year, with over 9,000 of those in NSW. Where resuscitation is commenced, only a third of patients have their heart beat re-started again quickly with conventional treatment. For patients whose heart does not start beating again quickly, less than 5% survive.

ECMO is a ‘mini heart lung bypass’ machine that is used in patients with prolonged cardiac arrest which is available at a limited number of metropolitan hospitals. There are 5 such hospitals in Sydney. Owing to the resources and technical skills required, these hospitals only offer the service for cardiac arrests occurring around business hours. Cardiac arrest patients who may benefit from ECMO are not getting to hospital in time to derive benefit from this therapy and they often experience their cardiac arrest outside of business hours. The current system is inefficient and offers very limited, inequitable access.

What does the research aim to do and how?

This research aims to improve outcomes in patients with prolonged cardiac arrests by enabling better access to ECMO. This will be achieved by using trained paramedics and doctors who take ECMO to the patient at the scene of their cardiac arrest, thereby reducing the time from cardiac arrest to receiving therapy with ECMO. This work will assess the cost and health economic implications of such a service and how it can be scaled up to support more Australians.

This research will:

  • Test a new way to deliver ECMO to more people
  • Identify the cost and scalability implications of offering such a service