Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, Berlin, and ventricular assist devices: a primer for the cardiologist

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Purpose of review

Mechanical circulatory support (MCS) has become an indispensable tool in the management of children with impending respiratory and cardiac failure. Though extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) was classically the only form of support available to pediatric patients, considerable advances have allowed ventricular assist devices (VADs) to become increasingly utilized in children. This review provides an update of recent advances in ECMO and VAD management in children.

Recent findings

The options for mechanical support in infants and small children with end-stage heart failure are limited. As such, the greatest advances in the past decade have come in the successful adoption of the Berlin Heart EXCOR device, with a marked improvement in survival to transplant over ECMO. Further advances have been made in the use of adult VADs in children. For instance, the HeartWare HVAD has been utilized in children as young as 3 years of age, despite being designed for use in adult patients.


The availability of mechanical support options for children remains limited to ECMO and a small number of VADs. While outcomes of VAD support in pediatric patients have been promising, further study in smaller and more complex pediatric patients is necessary.

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