Complement activation during prolonged extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

S. H. Westfall, C. Stephens, K. Kesler, R. H. Connors, T. F. Tracy, T. R. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Short-term cardiopulmonary bypass activates the complement system, possibly resulting in pulmonary dysfunction from granulocyte aggregation and pulmonary endothelial damage. These effects may be inhibited by steroids. Prolonged extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is used for newborn respiratory failure, but the effects of ECMO on complement activation are unknown. Twenty-one newborn infants with respiratory failure treated with ECMO were randomly assigned to group I (control, no steroids) or group II (30 mg/kg intravenous methylprednisolone before ECMO). Depletion assays of C3 and C5 were performed in each group at intervals before and during ECMO (declining values indicate complement activation). The groups were compared for complement levels, survival, time on ECMO and on the ventilator, and total hospitalization time. Steroids significantly shortened the time on ECMO and time on the ventilator after ECMO but did not affect survival or total hospitalization time. Steroids also enhanced activation of C3 and C5. Complement activation occurs during ECMO. Steroid administration paradoxically causes earlier complement activation but shortens ECMO and ventilator times. Complement activation during ECMO is of questionable significance. The benefits of steroids during ECMO may be mediated through other mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)887-891
Number of pages5
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery


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