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UC Davis Vascular Center

UC Davis Vascular Center

NEWS | August 10, 2012

UC Davis Children's Hospital gains international recognition for lifesaving program

Children's hospital receives prestigious critical-care medicine award


UC Davis Children's Hospital has received the Excellence in Life Support Award from the international Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) for its Extracorporeal Life Support Program. The program provides lifesaving support for failing organ systems in infants, children and in some cases, adults.

UC Davis Children's Hospital © UC RegentsThe Excellence in Life Support Award recognizes centers worldwide that demonstrate an exceptional commitment to evidence-based processes and quality measures, staff training and continuing education, patient satisfaction and ongoing clinical care. UC Davis Children's Hospital is one of only a few hospitals to receive the award since its inception in 2006.

The ELSO Award signifies to patients and families a commitment to exceptional patient care. It also demonstrates to the health-care community an assurance of high-quality standards, specialized equipment and supplies, defined patient protocols, and advanced education of all staff members.

Extracorporeal life support (ECLS), also known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or ECMO, is one of the most advanced forms of life support available to patients experiencing acute failure of the cardiac and respiratory systems. The ECLS machine does the work of the heart and lungs, artificially oxygenating and purifying the blood and returning it to the body, allowing the patient's heart and lungs to rest and heal.

Robert Prezlaff © UC Regents
Robert Pretzlaff

"The most wonderful part of this program is being able to offer to patients and their families an opportunity for recovery that otherwise would not exist," said ECLS Program Coordinator Laura Kenny. "It is incredibly rewarding to send a child home with their parents who would not have survived without ECLS." 

Recipients of the Excellence in Life Support Award are designated as Centers of Excellence for having demonstrated extraordinary achievement in the following categories:

• Excellence in promoting the mission, activities and vision of ELSO

• Excellence in patient care by using the highest-quality measures, processes and structures based on evidence

• Excellence in training, education, collaboration and communication that supports ELSO guidelines and contributes to a healing environment

At UC Davis Children's Hospital, ECLS is performed by a team of highly skilled physicians, nurses and cardiovascular perfusionists trained to provide extracorporeal life support. All patients treated using ECLS have a bedside nurse dedicated to the care of the patient as well as a second, specially trained nurse committed to the management of the ECLS machine. A physician trained in ECLS technology manages or co-manages each of the patients on ECLS, and a UC Davis Medical Center perfusionist is available at all times to assist with the equipment and patient management.

"What makes the Extracorporeal Life Support Program at UC Davis so special is the chance to work closely with such a wonderful team, to help our very sickest patients," said Robert Pretzlaff, chief of the Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics of the UC Davis School of Medicine.

ECLS frequently is used in newborns with severe lung disease; older children treated with ECLS fall into several categories, including children who have suffered severe trauma, have severe pneumonia or other infections and those with acquired heart disease, such as myocarditis or cardiomyopathy. ECLS also permits the hearts of infants and children who have undergone surgery for congenital heart disease to rest and recover following surgery.

The Extracorporeal Life Support Organization is a consortium of health-care professionals and scientists dedicated to the development and evaluation of novel therapies for the support of failing organ systems. The organization promotes ongoing research into the most effective treatment methods by maintaining a registry of patients receiving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and providing educational programs for member centers and the broader medical and lay communities. More than 115 international ECMO centers are members of ELSO, which is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich.

UC Davis Children's Hospital is the Sacramento region's only nationally ranked, comprehensive hospital for children, serving infants, children, adolescents and young adults with primary, subspecialty and critical care. It includes the Central Valley's only pediatric emergency department and Level I pediatric trauma center, which offers the highest level of care for critically ill children. The 129-bed children's hospital includes the state-of-the-art 49-bed neonatal and 24-bed pediatric intensive care and pediatric cardiac intensive care units. With more than 120 physicians in 33 subspecialties, UC Davis Children's Hospital has more than 74,000 clinic and hospital visits and 13,000 emergency department visits each year. For more information, visit