HUMC becomes 1st hospital in nation to use new ‘Breethe’ treatment that helps COVID patients on ventilators

Hackensack University Medical Center has become the first hospital in the world to use a new extracorporeal membrane oxygenation system to treat and improve breathing for a patient with COVID-19.

The treatment, called the Abiomed Breethe OXY-1 System, is an advanced compact cardiopulmonary bypass system that pumps, oxygenates and removes carbon dioxide from the blood for patients whose lungs can no longer provide sufficient oxygenated blood to the major organs.

The treatment was used for the first time Dec. 19, helping a 51-year-old woman with respiratory failure due to COVID-19. The patient, who was on a ventilator at the time of implant, was stable and improving after 24 hours of Breethe support.

Patients are placed on the Breethe system temporarily to support their lung function by taking unoxygenated blood out of the body, circulating it through the oxygenator in the system, and pumping oxygenated blood back into the body to be distributed to the major organs.

Patients can be on support for days or weeks, depending on their condition. Breethe supports lung recovery so patients can be weaned off the system and live with their native lungs without assistance.

The system is only used in the hospital.

Hackensack Meridian Health CEO Bob Garrett said he is thrilled that the system is one of only six cardiac surgery programs in the world to be selected to trial the new Breethe system — and that HUMC was the first to use it.

“This achievement underscores Hackensack Meridian Health’s commitment to give our patients the very best care in the fight against COVID-19 infection,” he said.

The Breethe system received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October. In addition to COVID-19, it can help provide oxygenation to patients suffering from cardiogenic shock or respiratory failure from acute respiratory distress syndrome, H1N1 influenza or SARS.

When used with the Impella heart pump, it can allow the heart to rest and oxygenate the body, a combination therapy known as ECpella.

Dr. Ihor Sawczuk, HMH Northern Market regional president and chief research officer, said the program fits the system’s mission.

“Hackensack Meridian Health has long been a leader in the implementation of the most advanced technologies based on the latest medical research,” he said. “Our adoption of Breethe therapy is yet another example of our dedication to being at the forefront of patient care.”

Mark Sparta, the CEO of HUMC — the hardest-hit hospital in the state — said he’s thrilled to have more treatments options.

“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our communities, so everything we can do to fight back is a win,” he said. “We welcome Breethe into our arsenal of therapies we use to support patients with COVID-19 who are fighting for their lives.”

The patient was treated by Dr. Yuriy Dudiy, attending cardiac surgeon, and Dr. Mark Anderson, interim chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery and a cardiothoracic surgeon at HUMC.

“Breethe is an important new option for patients with COVID-19 who require ECMO therapy,” Anderson said. “It is simple and intuitive to use, highly portable and a very promising therapy with the potential to help many patients.”