Center of excellence

VCU Health’s extracorporeal life support program earns coveted Gold Level ELSO Award

As one of the oldest programs and just the third of its type in the U.S., VCU Medical Center’s extracorporeal life support (ECLS) has long given “coding” patients a fighting chance. Since the late 1970s, the center has provided extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to individuals in the direst conditions.

Now, patients and their loved ones have even more assurances that they’re in the best possible hands, as July 1 the center received a prestigious Gold Level ELSO Award for Excellence in Life Support from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO).

ECMO is used for patients whose lungs cannot provide enough oxygen, including patients with COVID-19. For those patients, when all other therapies fail, ECMO offers a 50% chance at recovery.

The center’s ECMO services include five life-sustaining ECMO units, treating anywhere from 40-60 patients per year. In 2019, the program’s survival rate for extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation was over 70%.

“I think it speaks to the public, to our providers, to our referrals and to the community that we have gone the extra mile to achieve those criteria to qualify us to be a center of excellence,” says Patricia Nicolato, D.O., associate professor in the Department of Surgery and Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, and director of VCU Health’s ECLS program.

Designed to recognize and honor ECLS centers reaching the highest level of performance, innovation and quality, ELSO’s award program is based on the organization’s guidelines for new programs, training and education. The Centers of Excellence designation and awards for excellence signify leaders in ECLS. Recognized by U.S. News & World Report and Parents magazine as a criterion for top institutions, gold- and platinum-level awards recognize ECLS programs worldwide that distinguish themselves through processes, procedures and systems that promote excellence and exceptional, patient-centered care.

As a result, the award not only serves as further assurance to VCU Health’s patients and referring health systems, but also grants VCU Medical Center an additional point in the U.S. News & World Report ranking system and a leg up in other evaluations.

Measured against benchmarks for all 2020 Centers of Excellence, the ELSO awards recognize centers achieving qualifying scores on ELSO’s Excellence in Life Support Application — a multiyear process of improvement.

VCU Health’s center is actively working toward the platinum-level award of achievement.


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