Intensive care is keeping up the pace

Caring for critically ill infants, children and young people from Victoria and across the country, the RCH Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) is an exceptional place.

Highly-trained staff and cutting-edge technology are essential to saving lives. As is philanthropy.

“Every piece of equipment in PICU that makes it remarkable, that makes it the place you want your child to go when they need intensive care, has been funded through philanthropy,” says Mark Hochmann, Senior Technologist.

One such piece of equipment is the Oesophageal Pacemaker. Supported by Courage 4 Kids Auxiliary, this equipment plays an important role in life-saving care for patients with cardiac pacing issues.

When a heart isn’t beating regularly, intervention is needed to ensure it maintains the right speed or rhythm. Patients going into cardiac arrest are treated with defibrillators to kick-start their hearts. Patients with ongoing heart rhythm problems are hooked up to pacemakers via wires embedded into their heart wall. Patients without such wires who need emergency pacing require an Oesophageal Pacemaker.

Similar to a nasogastric tube, Oesophageal Pacemaker wires are placed through the mouth towards the stomach, so electrodes rest against the oesophageal wall behind the heart. The Oesophageal Pacemaker wire connects to a handheld pacemaker with which doctors can adjust the rate and duration of each pacing burst, as well as alter the amplitude or amount of electrical current used, tailoring it to the patient’s needs.

Though a rather simple piece of equipment, it’s still a life-saver. Small and handy, Oesophageal Pacemakers can be implemented in a hurry, without the need for x-rays to confirm the wire is in place. Its small size also means it can easily travel with a patient to surgery before a more permanent means of pacing can be implanted. Oesophageal Pacemakers are also used when a patient needs short-term pacing while blood chemistry or electrolyte levels are stabilised.

“When we need an Oesophageal Pacemaker, it’s because a child is in critical condition. It’s an important part of the critical care we provide because we have to be prepared for everything. We have to ensure there’s a plan A, B, C and all the way to Z if we need it.”

The technology supported by philanthropy on PICU allows the RCH to provide this comprehensive level of care. It also puts anxious families at ease.

“It’s a great source of comfort for families to see that it’s people like them, not just government funding, supporting the health of their child. It’s very reassuring to know there are kind people out there doing what they can to help.”

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