ECMO Symposium 2023

January 28, 2023

More than 160 people packed into Tamkin Auditorium at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, with another 250 attending virtually, for the inaugural UCLA Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) and Life Support Symposium on Saturday, January 28, 2023. The energy was palpable as distinguished faculty from various specialties—critical care, cardiothoracic surgery, pediatrics, cardiology, pulmonology, and medical ethics—discussed cutting-edge ECMO treatment of patients in respiratory or cardiac failure.  

DAPM members Vadim Gudzenko, MD, Chief of our Critical Care Division and Medical Director of the Adult ECMO Program, and Marisa Hernandez-Morgan, MD, MPP, MA, Associate Program Director of the Anesthesia Critical Care Medicine Fellowship, co-directed the symposium with Peyman Benharash, MD, Surgical Director of the Adult ECMO Program, and Weiting Chen, RN, BSN, CCRN, CSC, ECMO Coordinator. 

“I knew that there was substantial interest in the community about ECMO, but I didn’t expect that we would have such overwhelming attendance,” said Dr. Gudzenko. “It was gratifying to share our expertise and knowledge.” 

The esteemed “father” of ECMO, Robert Bartlett, MD, Active Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan, gave the symposium’s keynote address—a sweeping overview of the past, present, and future of ECMO technology, principles, and research. Dr. Bartlett inspired the audience by describing his role in developing an early membrane oxygenator in the 1960s, saving the life of the first neonatal ECMO patient in 1975, and establishing the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) in 1989—a consortium that now boasts over 800 ECMO centers worldwide.  

"Having Dr. Bartlett as our keynote speaker was an absolute honor!” said Dr. Gudzenko. “He is such a legendary figure in the modern critical care and ECMO field that his presence completely elevated the status and energy of the symposium.” 

Several DAPM intensivists delivered dynamic and relevant presentations on modern ECMO care. Dr. Gudzenko lectured on ECMO principles in respiratory failure and ECMO use in transplantation, and Dr. Hernandez-Morgan spoke on extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation (ECPR) for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA). Joseph Meltzer, MD, Medical Director of the Cardiothoracic ICU, presented on ECMO principles in heart failure and engaged in a pro-con debate on whether every hospital should have an ECMO program. Andrew Young, MD, discussed management of anticoagulation in extracorporeal life support (ECLS), and Michael Wolfe, MD, described the wide gamut of complications that can occur with ECMO.  

“I was happy that many members of our multidisciplinary team got the chance to speak,” said Dr. Gudzenko. “They do such an incredible job every day taking care of the sickest patients. The symposium helped us to reemphasize the leading position that UCLA holds regionally and nationally in the area of ECMO support for advanced heart and respiratory failure.” 

A special highlight of the conference was a panel with several patients whose lives had been saved by ECMO. Their personal stories were a testament not only to the power of this modern technology, but also to the excellent care provided by the multidisciplinary ECMO team at UCLA.  

"The session with our former patients was simply phenomenal,” said Dr. Gudzenko. “Learning about their memories and experience gave everyone a unique perspective on our everyday work. It was so powerful that many attendees had tears in their eyes.”