Leading Perfusionist Discusses Air Embolism From Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation System Failure

    Perfusionist Expert WitnessThis case involves a juvenile female patient in Idaho who underwent a number of surgeries to repair a congenital heart defect that was diagnosed shortly after birth. After the child was born, she underwent a number of surgeries to repair the defect. During one of these surgeries, the ECMO machine that was being used to oxygenate the patient’s blood malfunctioned, causing the perfusionist to manually crank the machine to re-initiate the flow of blood. As this occurred the machine allowed air into the system that subsequently enter the patient. As a result, the child suffered an air embolism and died shortly after the surgery was completed.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Do you have experience in using the ECMO machine? If so, how often do you use it?
    • 2. What are the common complications that can arise from using this machine?
    • 3. How does one mitigate the risk of air embolism?