Selective use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in the management of congenital diaphragmatic hernia

Charles Stolar, Peter Dillon, Cynthia Reyes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) provides lung rest for moribund infants with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) after deterioration from a "honeymoon" period. This suggests that unstable pulmonary hypertension determines demise more than pulmonary hypoplasia. We avoided treating overwhelming pulmonary hypoplasia by using ECMO only if the premoribund condition had been marked by evidence of adequate lung parenchyma as a best preductal PO2>100 torr and PCO2<50 torr with maximal therapy. Twenty-six CDH infants with respiratory distress within 4 hours survived operation. Five were not ECMO candidates, with best PO2 33±9, PCO2 157±30 torr, and died. Seven honeymoon infants, with best PO2 325±80, PCO2 27±5, survived without ECMO. Fourteen additional infants had honeymoon 26±13 hours with PO2 256±48, PCO2 30±8 followed by a-AdO2 gradients 600 torr×16±4.5 hours despite maximal therapy. All 14 were treated with ECMO for 48 to 210 hours. Arterial blood gas values at initiation were PO2 34±6, PCO2 59±19, and pH 7.22±0.2. Right-to-left shunting due to pulmonary hypertension was documented by oximetry and two-dimensional echo/Doppler examination. Twelve of 14 (86%) ECMO-treated infants survived with normal arterial blood gas values on room air, no right-to-left shunting, and no gross neurologic sequellae to date. Two of 14 died. Improvement of ECMO was marked by positive hyperoxia response and decreased right-to-left shunting. Post-ECMO ventilator support was 120±32 hours. ECMO candidates had higher best PO2 (P<.01) and lower best PCO2 (P<.05) than non-ECMO candidates. Overwhelming pulmonary hypoplasia is not amenable to ECMO but infants who would succumb primarily to pulmonary hypertension can be identified and saved by ECMO.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-211
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of pediatric surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1988

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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