Pediatric hospitals noticing number of critically ill patients increasing as common viruses surge

HOUSTON – RSV and the flu are hitting the pediatric population hard right now.

According to Texas Children’s Hospital, that increases the volume of patients in almost every department, which is a shock since the last two years, viruses consisted mostly of all COVID cases and there weren’t a lot of other viruses circulating.

Dr. Patricia Bastero, Texas Children’s Pediatric Cardiac Intensivist, said viruses can lead to the most serious medical complications.

Right now, they’re noticing an alarming trend in the number of children on ECMO. Texas Children’s Hospital currently has nine kids on ECMO. This is among the most extreme medical procedures, so putting a patient on the machine is not a decision that’s made lightly.

ECMO is a machine that works for the heart and lungs, taking blood out of the body, giving it oxygen, and putting it back inside. This is done for as long as it takes the lungs and heart to heal. Therefore, having nine patients on this machine is a large number. TCH said it’s the most they’ve ever had, and more than most pediatric hospitals can handle.

Why are so many kids needing it now?

Dr. Bastero said it’s a combination of things like some patients have a lung or heart condition that requires ECMO until they receive a transplant, while others get viral infections that progress to the point of ECMO.

Now, as viruses like RSV and the flu surge in the community, TCH said patients are being transferred to them from across the state and region to handle the large volume of patients getting super sick.

Dr. Bastero warns that lung and heart failure can be acquired with time and infection.

While different viruses surge across the community, doctors encourage you to continue taking precautions, stay home when sick, wash hands, and get vaccines for children who are eligible.

According to the Texas Hospital Association, hospitals across the state are near capacity.

“We have been at near-capacity across the board, which seems to be the case across the state. We are constantly working on ways to improve and expedite the emergency process while ensuring enough bed capacity for patients in need,” Children’s Memorial Hermann said.