Purpose: The coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in an influx of critically ill patients requiring mechanical ventilation, some receiving venovenous (VV) extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). The benefits of early mobility while undergoing ECMO have been previously documented. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented physical therapists with novel challenges, balancing the risk of a widespread shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) with the benefits of early mobility for patients on ECMO. The purpose of this case study is to report the successful rehabilitation of a critically ill patient with COVID-19 undergoing VV ECMO. Methods: This is a case description of a 38-year-old man who presented to the hospital with COVID-19 and subsequent intubation and cannulation for VV ECMO. Physical therapy was initiated while the patient remained critically ill on VV ECMO. Focused coordination and education were employed to limit PPE usage by limiting the number of essential staff/therapists that entered the room as well as changing the frequency of therapy sessions dependent on how the patient was progressing functionally. Results: On VV ECMO day 11, he was able to sit up and perform a sit-to-stand. ECMO decannulation occurred on hospital day 14 with extubation on hospital day 18. The patient progressed functionally while quarantined in the room until he was discharged home with supplemental oxygen after spending 29 days in the hospital. Conclusion: This case study demonstrates the clinical decision-making used to provide physical therapy services for a critically ill patient with COVID-19. High-level team coordination resulted in limiting the use of PPE as well as reducing staff exposure frequency during rehabilitation. Despite his severe critical illness, the patient was successfully discharged home within 30 days.
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© 2021 Academy of Acute Care Physical Therapy.