Steven Peterec, MD, is a specialist in neonatal medicine and the director of Yale Medicine’s Pediatric ECMO Program.
ECMO, short for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, is a therapy used to treat life-threatening heart and/or lung failure. It uses an artificial lung to remove carbon dioxide from the blood and to deliver oxygen into the blood, and in some cases uses an artificial pump to pump the blood around the patient’s body.
ECMO got its start in the 1950s as a support for open heart surgery for adults. Now it is used for infants in neonatal and pediatric intensive care units—including those at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, where Dr. Peterec practices. Critically ill infants are brought to Yale from all over the region for treatment by physicians in the ECMO program. Dr. Peterec has performed research into establishing criteria for using ECMO on infants.
“I was initially attracted to neonatology by the fascinating changes that occur during the transition from fetal life to life outside of the womb. I subsequently have been drawn to the care of newborns with respiratory failure and cardiac disease,” Dr. Peterec says. “I find it extremely gratifying to help these patients recover from their illness, whether it requires the use of ECMO or other more conventional therapies.”
Dr. Peterec also enjoys interacting with parents. As a member of the Fetal Care Center, he performs prenatal consultations for parents whose pregnancies have been complicated by fetal birth defects or other problems.