Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation in Premature Infants With Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia

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Prematurity and low birth weight have been exclusion criteria for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO); however, these criteria are not evidence based. With advances in anticoagulation, improved technology, and surgical expertise, it is difficult to deny a potential therapy based on these criteria alone. We report the outcome of three neonates who were ineligible based on traditional criteria but were offered ECMO as a life-saving measure. We highlight the interdisciplinary nature of modern decision-making. All three neonates had severe congenital diaphragmatic hernia diagnosed prenatally, had normal fetal karyotypes, were born prematurely, and weighed less than 2 kg. All three neonates underwent cervical venoarterial cannulation, stabilization on ECMO, and repair of their congenital diaphragmatic hernia early in their ECMO courses. All three infants had long courses of respiratory support attributable to lung hypoplasia, but there were no short- or long-term complications attributable to ECMO support directly. All three are alive at 2 years of age and were making progress developmentally. In conclusion, with interdisciplinary collaboration and clinical guidelines uniformly implemented, low birth weight infants may benefit from ECMO and should not be denied the therapy arbitrarily based on gestational age or size alone. Further research is essential to determine appropriate patient selection in premature infants.

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