The use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in neonates with severe congenital diaphragmatic hernia: a 26-year experience from a tertiary centre†

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Neonates with severe congenital diaphragmatic hernia requiring extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) have a high rate of mortality. There is controversy regarding optimal time of surgical intervention. We present our data over a 26-year period.


We analysed data from our Extracorporeal Life Support Organization registry forms between 1989 and 2015, in order to determine the factors affecting survival outcome for repair of congenital diaphragmatic hernia with ECMO as a bridge to surgery and/or recovery.


Ninety-eight neonates with congenital diaphragmatic hernia requiring ECMO were identified. In-hospital mortality was 32%. The overall mortality (47.9%) in our study was seen up to 7 months, after this point there was no mortality. There was no difference in survival in patients repaired using pre-, intra- or postoperative ECMO (P = 0.65). Requiring haemofiltration at any point was significantly associated with reduced survival [hazard ratio 2.7 (95% confidence interval 1.5-4.9); P = 0.01] as was the presence of neurological complications [hazard ratio 3.7 (95% confidence interval 1.6-8.5); P = 0.003]. Age, Apgar score, mode of delivery, side, associated cardiac comorbidities, pH, partial pressure of carbon dioxide, partial pressure of oxygen, oxygen saturations, bicarbonate, high-frequency oscillatory ventilation, mode of ECMO, inhaled nitric oxide, pulmonary complications and bleeding were not associated with any survival difference.


We believe that all neonates with severe diaphragmatic hernia should be given the option of ECMO if clinically indicated. Provided these patients survive the initial postoperative period, they go on to have a sustained survival benefit. Long-term cost analysis and morbidity need to be taken into account to determine the true effect of ECMO on congenital diaphragmatic hernia.

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