Neurologic Outcomes After Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation: A Systematic Review

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The goal of this systematic review of the literature was to summarize neurologic outcomes following neonatal and pediatric extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

Data Sources:

We conducted electronic searches of PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, CINAHL, Cochrane, and EMBASE.

Study Selection:

Inclusion criteria included publication dates 2000–2016, patient ages 0–18 years, and use of standardized measures to evaluate outcomes after extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

Data Extraction:

We identified 3,497 unique citations; 60 full-text articles were included in the final review.

Data Synthesis:

Studies evaluated patients with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (7), cardiac disease (8), cardiac arrest (13), and mixed populations (32). Follow-up was conducted at hospital discharge in 10 studies (17%) and at a median of 26 months (interquartile range, 8–61 mo) after extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in 50 studies (83%). We found 55 outcome measures that assessed overall health and function (4), global cognitive ability (7), development (4), motor function (5), adaptive function (2), behavior/mood (6), hearing (2), quality of life (2), school achievement (5), speech and language (6), learning and memory (4), and attention and executive function (8). Overall, 10% to as many as 50% of children scored more than 2 SDS below the population mean on cognitive testing. Behavior problems were identified in 16–46% of children tested, and severe motor impairment was reported in 12% of children. Quality of life of former extracorporeal membrane oxygenation patients evaluated at school age or adolescence ranged from similar to healthy peers, to 31–53% having scores more than 1 SD below the population mean.


This systematic review of the literature suggests that children who have undergone extracorporeal membrane oxygenation suffer from a wide range of disabilities. A meta-analysis was not feasible due to heterogeneity in pathologies, outcome measures, and age at follow-up, underscoring the importance of developing and employing a core set of outcomes measures in future extracorporeal membrane oxygenation studies.

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