Hillcrest Doctors See Rise In Young COVID Patients Needing Intensive ECMO Treatments

Tuesday, September 14th 2021, 9:09 pm
By: Grant Stephens

TULSA, Oklahoma -

Hillcrest doctors said they're seeing a growing number of younger patients who need an intensive treatment for COVID-19.

They say they're seeing a need even greater than at COVID's peak in the winter.

Doctor Adam Betz is the medical director of Pulmonary ECMO at Hillcrest. He said the age of patients needing the intensive treatment has lowered to people in their 20's and 30's over the last few months as the spread of the Delta variant increases.

"Now you're reaching the point where the young aren't exempt from it," Betz said.

He said it's not just the age of patients that's concerning, but how many patients now need consultation for ECMO treatment.

Hillcrest can only treat four to five patients at a time because of a staffing shortage, meaning many people will be put on a waitlist for ECMO treatment.

ECMO raises COVID patients' survival rate from 5-10% to about 50%, but Dr. Betz said they'll never be the same.

"If you are that sick, this is a life-changing experience from there forward," he said. "They're going to remember the physical scars, they're going to remember the shortness of breath, we get a lot of them back to their families but it's difficult to ever go back to normal."

Dr. Betz said he's seen more than 200 ECMO patients since the vaccines came out, and only one of them was vaccinated.