Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Army & Navy providers team up to save soldier’s life

Image of Military personnel sitting around a table, exhibiting medical items. U.S. Air Force Col. (Dr.) Phillip Mason, medical director, BAMC Adult ECMO Program, and other BAMC personnel instruct medical staff on proper extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, cannulation technique at Naval Medical Center San Diego, Dec. 11, 2019. (Photo by Elaine Sanchez, Brooke Army Medical Center.)

Recommended Content:

Research and Innovation | Health Care Technology

A specialized team from Brooke Army Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas virtually supported a heart-lung bypass on the West coast, saving a soldier’s life and marking a first for this lifesaving program. 

BAMC teamed up with Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) in California in May to administer extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, treatment to a patient with presumed viral myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.

“This was BAMC’s first time virtually supporting ECMO and it was highly successful,” said Colleen Mitchell, ECMO primer, U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center at BAMC. “It is a game changer for critical care.”

Physicians first pursued conventional therapy when the young active duty soldier was admitted to the naval medical center. However, with the soldier’s condition declining, all signs began to point to ECMO as the best course of treatment.

ECMO is a heart-lung bypass system that circulates blood through an external artificial lung, oxygenates it, and delivers it back into the bloodstream. Rather than treat the condition, ECMO performs the job of the patient’s heart and lungs, buying the patient precious time to respond to treatments and heal. Established in October 2012, BAMC has the only adult ECMO center with full capability in the Department of Defense and remains one of the few centers in the world with air transport capability.

“The sooner the patient is on ECMO and stabilized, the less time vital organs are without oxygenation or necessary blood pressure support and the quicker the recovery,” said Bernadette Elliott, Adult Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS)/ECMO transport program manager.

With increasing evidence of its lifesaving properties, in recent years adult ECMO has become a hot commodity around the world, and other military medical centers have expressed interest in the capability. NMCSD was one of the first military hospitals to purchase ECMO equipment that would enable short-term care prior to a patient transfer, noted Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Robert Walter, chief, Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine.

Last December, a team of BAMC physicians and nurse specialists flew to the NMCSD to provide training in ECMO administration, patient transfer, and telemedicine-based mentoring to 25 personnel.

“Fast-forward to now, and that initial training was incredibly beneficial,” Walter said. “With the patient in this case clinically declining, the physicians in San Diego were able to recognize at a critical moment that ECMO was indicated and feel confident they could provide appropriate care.”

In close coordination with the San Diego-based team, BAMC offered to virtually assist with cannulation, which is the insertion of tubes into a patient, and other ECMO management as the center coordinated a patient transfer to a local hospital.

In the absence of a specialized team and full capability, the aim is for military medical professionals to have the skillset to stabilize patients on ECMO for transfer to a local facility for shorter-term care, such as in this case, or flown to BAMC when a longer course of treatment is indicated, which is typically the case with illnesses such as influenza, Walter explained.

Mitchell was the primer on call at BAMC the day the call came from San Diego. The primer is responsible for ensuring fluid is smoothly flowing throughout the circuit.

“I walked them through cannulation and priming the circuit, while closely monitoring the patient’s vital signs,” she explained. “It went very well.”

The soldier was successfully transferred and removed from ECMO after a few days and is expected to fully recover, Mitchell said. “There’s no better feeling than to have the skillset needed to contribute to someone’s survival,” she said.

Teamwork was key to this success, Walter said. “This was a terrific example of collaboration across facilities,” he said. “And it was one of the most avant-garde telemedicine application I’ve seen. There’s nothing in medical literature regarding virtual support of adult ECMO cannulation and management. BAMC is truly at the tip of the spear.”

Further down the road, Walter said the team hopes to become the hub of virtual ECMO support to other military medical facilities around the world, providing tele-mentoring and virtual biophysical monitoring of patients both stateside and downrange.

The goal is to have consistent, quality ECMO care and capability throughout the Military Health System, explained Elliott, noting that BAMC can fly a patient to the hospital from a combat zone in 18-36 hours. “Whenever we hear a patient is alive today because of our support … that is what it’s ultimately about. It’s real-time critical care support.”

You also may be interested in...

Dr Robert Marshall

Photo
6/21/2022
Dr Robert Marshall

Dr. Robert Marshall is the program director of the Department of Defense Clinical Informatics Fellowship at Madigan Army Medical Center.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | MHS GENESIS

How MHS GENESIS will become essential to patients' health journey

Article
6/21/2022
Dr. Robert Marshall, program director of the Department of Defense Clinical Informatics Fellowship at Madigan Army Medical Center.

Ensuring proper training of both providers and patients is essential for the successful integration and sustainment of MHS GENESIS into MHS care.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Health Care Technology | MHS GENESIS Toolkit | Electronic Health Record: MHS GENESIS | MHS GENESIS

How Military Medicine Is Preparing for the Next Conflict

Article
6/8/2022
As the Pentagon prepares today’s force for a “near-peer” fight against a large military adversary, the Military Health System is challenged to provide life-saving support for large-scale and dispersed operations.

As the Pentagon prepares today’s force for a “near-peer” fight against a large military adversary, the Military Health System is challenged to provide life-saving support for large-scale and dispersed operations. That’s especially true for the medics supporting troops on the front lines.

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Health Care Technology

BDAACH Enhances Its Surgical Capability Through Robotic Surgical System

Article Around MHS
6/6/2022
Surgical hospital

Three years of dedication to activating the robotic surgical system in the Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital (BDAACH) finally came to fruition on May 16, 2022.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Research and Innovation

After Leading Through the Pandemic, TRICARE Pharmacy Chief Retires

Article
5/27/2022
Pharmacy Services

How COVID-driven changes are improving the TRICARE Pharmacy System.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Health Care Technology

How MHS Video Connect Improves Mission Effectiveness and Care Quality

Photo
5/18/2022
How MHS Video Connect Improves Mission Effectiveness and Care Quality

Army Lt. Col (Dr.) Robert Cornfeld explains how MHS Video Connect's convenient, secure, and easy-to-use virtual video visit capability helps providers keep patients on mission and improves engagement with them, directly leading to better health outcomes.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology

How MHS Video Connect Improves Mission Effectiveness and Care Quality

Article
5/18/2022
Army Lt. Col (Dr.) Robert Cornfeld explains how MHS Video Connect's convenient, secure, and easy-to-use virtual video visit capability helps providers keep patients on mission and improves engagement with them, directly leading to better health outcomes.

Open to all active duty service members, retirees, and their families enrolled in a military hospital or clinic, MHS Video Connect empowers patients to meet with their military health provider virtually through live video on any internet-connected computer, tablet, or mobile device.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Health Care Technology | MHS Video Connect | Information for Providers | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Military Health System Research Program Seeks Funding Applications for FY2023

Article
4/7/2022
The Military Health System Research Program provides funding for projects that aim to improve care in military medical facilities like the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, pictured here. (Photo: Senior Airman Melody Bordeaux, U.S. Air Force)

The funding prioritizes research projects that focus on the delivery of military health care and system-level innovations that impact cost and outcomes.

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Research Branch | Research and Innovation

New App Addresses Service Women's Health Care Needs

Article
4/1/2022
Deployment Readiness Education for Servicewomen, one-stop resource for some of the most common questions and concerns that servicewomen have around deployment. (Photo: Connected Health)

The Defense Health Agency announces the release of Deployment Readiness Education for Servicewomen, the agency’s newest progressive web application.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Health Care Technology

Military Health System Research Program Notice of Funding Opportunity

Fact Sheet
3/31/2022

This flyer describes the process for applying for and receiving funding by the Military Health System Research Program.

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Research Branch | Research and Innovation

Top Military Health Care Leader Looks to the Future of Medicine

Article
3/23/2022
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kathryn Lipscomb, the urology department head at U.S. Naval Hospital Rota in Spain, waves to staff in USNH Naples, Italy during the first virtual cystoscopy between both hospitals in Jan 2021. (Photo: Navy Cmdr. Ryan Nations)

Health care has come a long way in recent years, thanks to technology, innovation and unexpected challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. The explosion of capabilities includes robots in the operating room, the expansion of virtual health care and virtual encounters, remote patient monitoring and artificial intelligence.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology

Accelerating Digital Health Across the MHS

Video
3/22/2022
Accelerating Digital Health Across the MHS

Across the Military Health System, we are partnering together to leverage digital health wherever we can – to keep our patients at the center of everything we do.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | MHS Video Connect | Mobile Apps

MHS Video Connect Offers Convenience, Efficiencies for Providers

Article
2/16/2022
Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Ryan Brennan

MHS Video Connect provides a safe and effective platform to virtually engage with patient “face-to-face”.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Health Care Technology | MHS Video Connect | Information for Providers | Access, Cost, Quality, and Safety | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Researchers Connect with Warfighters to Guide Tech Development

Article
1/25/2022
Military personnel trying an immersive training device

Researchers ‘get out of the clinic’ to learn warfighter challenges

Recommended Content:

Research and Innovation | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision Center of Excellence

2022 MHS Research Symposium Opens for 'Abstracts'

Article
1/6/2022
Poster of the MHSRS 2022

Abstracts for this year's Military Health System Research Symposium, with the theme "Optimizing Readiness – The Power of Military Medical Research," are due by Feb. 16.

Recommended Content:

Research and Innovation | Medical Research and Development | MHS Research Symposium
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 18
Refine your search
Last Updated: July 06, 2020

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.