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Extracorporeal life support (ECLS) is a modified form of cardiopulmonary bypass used to provide prolonged tissue oxygen delivery in patients with respiratory and/or cardiac failure. The first large-scale success of ECLS was achieved in the management of term newborns with respiratory failure. ECLS has become an accepted therapeutic modality for neonates, children, and adults who have failed conventional therapy and in whom cardiac and/or respiratory insufficiency is potentially reversible. The use of ECLS allows one to reduce other cardiopulmonary supports and apply a gentle ventilation strategy in a population of severely compromised critical care patients. ECLS has now been employed in more than 26,000 neonatal and pediatric patients with an overall survival rate of 68%. ECLS has evolved significantly over 25 years of clinical practice; patient selection for this complex and highly invasive therapy, as well as how ECLS is employed in different patient groups, is constantly changing. Generally, ECLS is used more liberally now than in the past. The number of patients requiring this support, however, is declining yearly, and those patients who receive ECLS compose a more severe subset of an intensive care population. This review provides an overview of the development of ECLS and the equipment and techniques employed. The use of ECLS for neonatal respiratory failure, pediatric respiratory failure, and cardiac support are outlined. Management of the ECLS patient is discussed in detail, and outcome of these patients is reviewed. Finally, current trends and future implications of ECLS in neonatal and pediatric critical care are addressed.