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Intensive Care Med. 2010 Jul;36(7):1229-34. doi: 10.1007/s00134-010-1886-5. Epub 2010 Apr 28.

A 20-year experience on neonatal extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in a referral center.

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Department of Pediatrics, University Medicine Mannheim, Theodor-Kutzer-Ufer 1-3, Mannheim, 68167, Germany.



Advances in treatment of neonatal respiratory failure are responsible for a decline in the number of newborns treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). The aim of this study are to determine demographic changes, focusing on time of referral, diagnosis, and respiratory parameters in neonates put on ECMO.


Retrospective review.


Tertiary ECMO center.


A total of 321 neonates were treated with ECMO from January 1987 to December 2006.


Overall number of patients increased with every 5-year period, whereby congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) was the most common diagnosis (53%), followed by meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) (21%), sepsis and/or pneumonia (13%), and others such as persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), or hypoplasia of the lung (13%). Worsening severity of illness as measured by ECMO duration and days on ventilator has to be stated for all diagnoses. Nevertheless, survival rate remained stable; both overall and diagnosis-specific mortality rates did not change significantly. Of all children, 67% survived to discharge or transfer, while best rates were seen for MAS (94%), followed by sepsis and/or pneumonia (69%), CDH (62%), and other diagnoses (43%). Concerning survival rate, no difference between inborn and outborn children occurred. However, between early- and late-referred children, a referral to the ECMO center during the first 24 h of life was associated with a significantly higher rate of survival (77% versus 54%, p = 0.0004), predominantly seen for CDH (67% versus 35%, p = 0.02).


We strongly recommend timely transfer to an ECMO center in patients with CDH who are at risk of circulatory failure.

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