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Florida Hospital Orlando expands cardiac intensive care unit

Florida Hospital Orlando unveiled an expansion to its cardiac intensive care unit, adding eight beds designated for patients who have severe heart and lung failure and need to be on a life-saving machine called ECMO.

“We had a situation where we had to say no,” said Dr. Robert Duane Davis, the chief medical officer of several institutes at Florida Hospital, including the Cardiovascular Institute. “We had a limited capacity. We were full most of the time. And when the unit is full, you can’t really do bunk beds. So really it’s about saying yes when we need to say yes.”

“It puts oxygen in the bloodstream and takes carbon dioxide out of it,” Davis said.

The unit is an extension of the hospital’s 34-bed surgical cardiac intensive care unit and will expand its capacity to care for 200 to 300 additional ECMO patients each year.

The new rooms are 40 percent larger than the hospital’s existing cardiac intensive care units, said Mary Nelson, a nurse and ECMO program manager at Florida Hospital.

“They accommodate the extra machine and the high level of life support and allow for families to stay in the room with the patients,” said Nelson. “The rooms also have all the latest technology, including ceiling lifts in every room to make sure we’re really able to get these patients up and moving and turning to reduce any complications that they might have.”

Patients on ECMO stay for as long as three months in the hospital.

“ECMO is a short-term support and it will continue to get better from that standpoint and they’ll be able to use it longer,” Davis said. He added that with advancements in technology, potentially a wider range of ailments can benefit from ECMO.

“But you don’t go home with ECMO,” he said. “It’s a bridge to something, either to recovering, meaning that the body organ recovers enough, or it’s a bridge to some sort of device down the road.”