Interhospital transportation of a COVID-19 patient undergoing veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation by helicopter

Am J Emerg Med. 2021 May:43:290.e5-290.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2020.09.089. Epub 2020 Oct 3.


Some coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients develop rapidly progressive acute respiratory distress syndrome and require veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (V-V ECMO). A previous study recommended the transfer of ECMO patients to ECMO centers. However, because of the pandemic, a limited number of ECMO centers are available for patient transfer. The safe long-distance interhospital transport of these patients is a concern. To minimize transportation time, helicopter use is a suitable choice. We report the first case of a COVID-19 patient on V-V ECMO, transferred to our ECMO center by helicopter. A 45-year-old man with rheumatoid arthritis history, treated with immunosuppressants, presented with fever and sore throat. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 following a positive severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 polymerase chain reaction test result and was subsequently prescribed favipiravir. However, his respiratory failure progressively worsened. On day 10 of hospitalization at the previous hospital, he was intubated, and we received a request for ECMO transport on the next day. The ECMO team, who wore personal protective equipment (N95 respirators, gloves, gowns, and face shields), initiated V-V ECMO in the referring hospital and safely transported the patient by helicopter. The flight time was 7 min. He was admitted to the intensive care unit of our hospital and received tocilizumab. He was discharged on hospital day 31 with no significant sequelae. In this case report, we discuss important factors for the safe and appropriate interhospital transportation of COVID-19 patients on ECMO as well as staff and patient safety during helicopter transportation.

Keywords: Coronavirus; Favipiravir; Mobile ECMO; Primary transport; Tocilizumab.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / therapy*
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation / methods*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics*
  • Patient Transfer / methods*
  • Transportation of Patients / methods*