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Ann Thorac Surg. 2000 May;69(5):1476-83.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for infant postcardiotomy support: significance of shunt management.

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Pediatric Cardiovascular Program, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.



After repair of complex congenital heart defects in infants and children, postcardiotomy cardiac failure requiring temporary circulatory support can occur. This is usually accomplished with the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). ECMO management of patients with single-ventricle physiology and aorto-pulmonary shunts can be particularly challenging. We retrospectively reviewed our experience with postcardiotomy support with particular attention to those children with single-ventricle palliation.


Thirty-five consecutive children (age 1 to 820 days, median 19 days) out of 1,020 patients (3.4%) required mechanical support (ECMO) after repair of congenital cardiac lesions from February 1994 to April 1999. Twenty-five patients underwent two ventricle repairs and 10 patients had single-ventricle palliation. Various parameters analyzed included strategies of shunt management, presence of presupport cardiac arrest, and timing of support initiation.


Overall hospital survival for these 35 patients was 61%. There were four additional late deaths. Hospital survival was the same for those patients in whom support was initiated for failure to wean from cardiopulmonary bypass in the operating room versus those patients in whom support was initiated after successful separation from cardiopulmonary bypass (6 of 10 vs 15 of 25 or 60% survival). In those patients with shunt-dependent pulmonary circulation, survival was significantly improved in those patients in which the aorto-pulmonary shunt was left open (4 of 5 with open shunt vs 0 of 4 with occluded shunt (p = 0.048).


The ability to readily implement postcardiotomy support is vital to the management of children with complex congenital cardiac disease. Overall survival can be quite satisfactory if support is employed in a rational and expedient manner. In patients with single-ventricle physiology and aorto-pulmonary shunts, leaving the shunt open during the period of support can result in markedly improved outcomes.

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