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J Pediatr Surg. 2006 Apr;41(4):662-7.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for support of children after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation: the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization experience.

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Department of Surgery, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.



Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a means of respiratory and hemodynamic support for patients failing conventional therapies. Children requiring hematopoietic stem cell transplantation who develop complications during therapy may require ECMO. Such patients pose medical and ethical challenges for clinicians considering initiation of ECMO. The authors review the outcomes of these patients and propose recommendations.


The Extracorporeal Life Support Organization Registry was queried for all patients younger than 18 years with an International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, or Current Procedural Terminology code related to bone or stem cell transplant.


Nineteen children in the registry met inclusion criteria. The median age was 9.6 years (7 months to 17.5 years). Initiation of ECMO was for pulmonary support (n = 17), cardiac support (n = 1), or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (n = 1). The median duration of ECMO support was 5.1 days (range, 30 hours to 42 days). Pulmonary infections included 3 parainfluenza, 2 Pneumocystis carinii, 1 influenza A, and 1 respiratory syncytial virus. Overall, 15 (79%) died during their ECMO run, whereas only 4 (21%) survived to come off ECMO. Furthermore, of those who survived their ECMO run, only one patient survived to discharge from the hospital. Risk factors for death on ECMO include development of renal complications and development of multiorgan dysfunction.


Patients who require ECMO for cardiopulmonary support after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation have a poor prognosis. Clinicians must be cautious in presenting this option to parents and present them with appropriate expectations in this high-risk population.

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