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Published on October 25, 2021

Jefferson Abington Hospital Adds ECMO Program to Critical Care Services

Lifesaving Treatment for Cardiogenic Shock and Respiratory Failure Now Available in the Suburbs

ABINGTON, PA (October 25, 2021)—Jefferson Abington Hospital has launched a program that offers extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for adults. As a treatment for critically ill people, ECMO temporarily takes over for the heart, lungs or both, while a person heals. ECMO can be an option for those who need more critical care support than ventilation and medications. While ECMO technology may be available at other hospitals emergently, Jefferson Abington Hospital offers the only program in the four counties of suburban Philadelphia.

The ECMO machine acts as an artificial heart and lung by removing blood from the body and pumping the blood through the artificial lung (oxygenator). The oxygenator takes carbon dioxide out of the blood and puts oxygen into the blood. Then the blood is pumped back into the body. Patients can be treated with ECMO for a few days or a few weeks.

Nawar Al-Rawas, MD, is the medical director of ECMO Services at Jefferson Abington Hospital after serving in a similar role at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. “At Abington, we utilize this highly advanced technology in our newly renovated, state-of-the-art Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit,” he said. “It is the privilege of our team to be able to offer this critical care program to severely ill people in the suburbs, saving patients from having to be transported to Philadelphia and saving family members from having to travel there.”

Al-Rawas explained that ECMO can be used for respiratory failure secondary to pneumonia, influenza, drowning, chemical inhalation, acute respiratory distress syndrome and other causes. It is also used to treat people with COVID-19 who are suffering from severe respiratory distress.

ECMO can also be used for cardiogenic shock secondary to serious cardiac issues such as heart attack, refractory arrhythmia, heart failure, post-partum cardiomyopathy, pulmonary embolus and hypothermic arrest. Al-Rawas said ECMO can be a bridge to transplant or to obtaining a surgically implanted pump used for patients in end-stage heart failure called a Left Ventricular Assist Device or LVAD.

The ECMO care team is comprised of the following:

  • Critical Care Physicians
  • Cardiac surgeons
  • Perfusionists
  • Nurse practitioners or physician assistants
  • Registered nurses
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Pharmacists
  • Physical therapists


About Jefferson Health - Abington

Jefferson Health – Abington encompasses Jefferson Abington Hospital in Abington, PA, Jefferson Lansdale Hospital in Hatfield Township, PA, and seven convenient outpatient facilities located in Blue Bell, Elkins Park, Horsham, Lower Gwynedd, Montgomeryville, Warminster and Willow Grove. More than 1,400 physicians are on staff at both Jefferson Abington Hospital and Jefferson Lansdale Hospital. Jefferson Health - Abington is part of Jefferson Health and Jefferson, an organization dedicated to providing the highest quality, compassionate clinical care for patients, educating the health professionals of tomorrow, and discovering new treatments and therapies that will define the future of health care.

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