Pediatric Critical Care Transport

Heart Failure and Recovery Program

Specialized Transport

For patients whose lives depend on mechanical circulatory support equipment, such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) , many hospitals are reluctant to move them – even within their own facilities – because of risks involved. Yet Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC provides a unique capability to transport even the youngest patients supported by ECMO or ventricular assist devices (VADs) hundreds of miles if necessary to receive life-saving care from the Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital.

Children’s is one of only a handful of pediatric hospitals in the United States to offer highly specialized transport for patients on ECMO or VADs. Our dedicated transport team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to transport the most critically ill patients by helicopter, airplane or ambulance. Patients have used this service to come from cities as distant as Washington, D.C., Buffalo, N.Y., and Richmond, Va.

Children’s unique approach includes a programmatic transport methodology and the use of equipment that has been specially designed by Children’s cardiology team to help facilitate safe movement of young patients. Transports usually can be arranged within one day, and the Transport Team provides insurance approval, logistics planning, and specially trained staff to facilitate the transport to Children’s Hospital.

The ECMO Transport Team consists of five highly skilled experts, including a pediatric intensivist, a cardiac nurse, a respiratory therapist and others who coordinate logistics and transportation. The VAD Transport Team includes these same specialists, plus VAD engineers who oversee the mechanical operation of the VAD and electrical supply considerations in transit.

The mode of transport depends on the length of a trip and weather conditions. From the time the Transport Team arrives at the patient’s bedside to when they transfer the patient into the aircraft or ambulance, the process takes about 2-1/2 hours. The entire transport time — from leaving the hospital to returning with the patient — is typically about 12 hours.

For critical care specialty transport, referring physicians may contact Children's Transport Team 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 412-692-5000.