Congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Stabilization and repair on ECMO

Ann Surg. 1992 Nov;216(5):569-73. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199211000-00008.


Availability of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support and the potential advantages of delayed repair of congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) have led several centers to delay CDH repair, using ECMO support if necessary. This study reviews the combined experience of five ECMO centers with infants who underwent stabilization with ECMO and repair of CDH while still on ECMO. All infants were symptomatic at birth, with a mean arterial oxygen pressure (PaO2) of 34 mmHg on institution of bypass despite maximal ventilatory support. A total of 42 infants were repaired on ECMO, with 18 (43%) surviving. Seven infants had total absence of the diaphragm, and 28 required a prosthetic patch to close the defect. Only five infants ever achieved a best postductal PaO2 over 100 mmHg before institution of ECMO. Prematurity was a significant risk factor, with no infants younger than 37 weeks of age surviving. Significant hemorrhage on bypass was also a hallmark of a poor outcome, with 10 of the 24 nonsurvivors requiring five thoracotomies and six laparotomies to control bleeding, whereas only one survivor required a thoracotomy to control bleeding. In follow-up, nine of the 18 survivors (50%) have developed recurrent herniation and seven (43%) have significant gastroesophageal reflux. Importantly, five of the 18 survivors were in the extremely high-risk group who never achieved a PaO2 over 100 mmHg or an arterial carbon dioxide pressure (PaCO2) less than 40 mmHg before the institution of ECMO. In conclusion, preoperative stabilization with ECMO and repair on bypass may allow some high-risk infants to survive. Surviving infants will require long-term follow-up because many will require secondary operations.

MeSH terms

  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hernia, Diaphragmatic / mortality
  • Hernia, Diaphragmatic / surgery*
  • Hernias, Diaphragmatic, Congenital*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate