Background: Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is considered when respiratory failure (RF) persists despite increasing conventional mechanical ventilation (CMV). High-frequency jet ventilation (HFJV) can improve ventilation with comparable mean airway pressure (PAW) to that found on CMV. This study was undertaken to determine whether HFJV is an effective treatment and alternative to ECMO for RF after congenital heart surgery.
Methods and results: HFJV was instituted in nine patients ranging in age from 6 days to 3.3 years with congenital heart disease meeting pulmonary criteria for ECMO. Indications for HFJV were pulmonary hypertension (six), adult-type respiratory distress syndrome (two), and pneumonitis (one). Seven patients (77%) were placed on HFJV within 24 hours of operation, and two patients required HFJV 2 weeks after operation. HFJV resulted in resolution of RF in eight of nine patients (89%). After 1 hour of HFJV, the arterial pH increased from 7.40 +/- 0.1 to 7.56 +/- 0.1 (p < 0.05) and the PaCO2 decreased from 44 +/- 15 to 29 +/- 12 mm Hg (p < 0.05). During HFJV there was no change in PaO2, although the FIO2 decreased from 0.99 +/- 0.0 to 0.73 +/- 0.2 (p < 0.05). There was no change in PAW, peak inspiratory pressures, positive end-expiratory pressures, heart rate, or mean arterial blood pressure during HFJV when compared with CMV. Mean duration of HFJV was 43 hours. Four patients were extubated and discharged from the hospital. Two patients were extubated but died from sepsis. Two patients had resolution of RF, but one died at reoperation and one from multisystem organ failure. The patient who failed HFJV therapy was placed on ECMO and died.
Conclusions: This study suggests that HFJV improves ventilation and is an alternative to ECMO in patients with RF after surgery for congenital heart disease.