Shifting Risks and Conflicting Outcomes—ECMO for Neonates with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia in the Modern Era

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Abstract

Objectives

To update previously described trends for neonates with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) receiving ECMO with changes in recommendations for care, and to determine how recent advancements in respiratory care have affected this patient population.

Study design

This study is a retrospective review of more than 2500 neonates with CDH who received ECMO listed in the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) registry. Cochran-Armitage and multivariate regression analyses were used to analyze changes in the patient population over time and in mortality-related risk factors.

Results

Almost one-half (48.1%) of the term neonates survived to discharge, representing a 13.8% decline in survival over the past 25 years (P < .0001). Over the past 10 years, the prevalence of respiratory acidosis more than doubled (P < .0001) and the prevalence of major complications increased (P < .001). During the same period, the number of ECMO courses longer than 1 week increased (P < .001), whereas the prevalence of multiple complications (>4) decreased (P < .0001). Surgeries performed on ECMO were associated with worse outcomes than those performed off ECMO. ECMO duration no longer represents a mortality-related risk factor.

Conclusions

Survival rates for neonates with CDH receiving ECMO have continued to drop in the modern era. Although the safety of ECMO has improved over the last decade, the number of patients experiencing significant respiratory acidosis has more than doubled—increasing the risk of intracranial hemorrhage and overall mortality. The evidence for permissive hypercapnia remains mixed; nonetheless, we believe that the risks outweigh the rewards in this patient population.

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