The Methodist Hospital is the first in the U.S. to use a portable heart/lung machine to move critically ill patients easily and safely to different areas of the hospital for medical tests or from outlying hospitals to the medical center for specialized treatment. Recently approved for use in the U.S. by the FDA, the device has been used in Europe since 2008 with excellent results.

“With this new device, we will never have to say that a patient is too sick to move,“ said Dr. Matthias Loebe, transplant surgeon at The Methodist Hospital. “This machine will enable us to safely move a patient who is in cardiogenic shock to the imaging device needed to provide better diagnostics or to a catheterization lab that might facilitate treatment. It will also allow us to transport very sick patients from less specialized community hospitals that have provided all the treatment available to them.“

The small, portable Lifebridge device provides complete cardiopulmonary support for patients who are in cardiogenic shock, an acute, life-threatening situation in which blood circulation is reduced because the heart can no longer pump enough oxygenated blood to the body’s organs. Without mechanical assistance for the heart and lungs, the patient’s organs fail and recovery is impossible. Existing heart/lung machines cannot be moved with the ill patient because of their size and weight, and perfusionists are needed to run them. Methodist’s new device weighs less than 40 lbs and can be operated by trained EMS workers and medical personnel with no need for assistance from a perfusionist.

Every year, more than 360,000 people die worldwide due to acute cardiopulmonary failure. In most cases, the failure starts with a heart attack. If the patient is not immediately given CPR or a shock from an AED, the patient will go into cardiogenic shock, which ends with an irreversible cardiovascular failure if left untreated.

A heart-lung machine takes over the functions of the heart and the lung, buying time for the patient to be treated in a specialized hospital or to be moved to where a diagnosis and treatment are available.

“As an acute care hospital with a world-class heart and vascular center and one of the country’s most active transplant centers, Methodist sees the need for a life-sustaining portable device like this for our patients,“ said Loebe. “With this new device, we can treat our critically ill patients in a much safer environment.“