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Circulation. 1992 Nov;86(5 Suppl):II300-4.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenator rescue in children during cardiac arrest after cardiac surgery.

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Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, PA.



Conventional cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for cardiac arrest after open-heart surgery in children is often unsuccessful despite the ability to perform open-chest massage. The purpose of this study was to review our results with mechanical support as rescue therapy in children with sudden circulatory arrest after cardiac surgery.


From 1981 through 1991, we have used mechanical support with an extracorporeal membrane oxygenator (ECMO) circuit for cardiac support in 33 children. Eleven of the 33 patients (age, 15 +/- 7 months) suffered cardiac arrest intractable to conventional open-chest massage 39 +/- 15 hours after an open-heart procedure. The mean duration of CPR was 65 +/- 9 minutes until ECMO flow was started. ECMO support was continued for 112 +/- 8 hours. One patient had ECMO discontinued due to bleeding (survived); three were discontinued from ECMO and died from neurological complications; and one died of cardiac dysfunction. Sepsis on ECMO was seen in one patient (survived). Overall early survival was seven of 11 (64%) with one patient requiring heart transplantation due to irreversible cardiac dysfunction. One child died late (1 month) after ECMO support. There were no long-term sequelae in the survivors.


We conclude that ECMO rescue in children with postcardiotomy cardiac arrest is a feasible option in selected patients even after prolonged CPR (as long as 60 minutes).

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