Deterioration of exercise capacity after neonatal extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

Eur Respir J. 2011 Nov;38(5):1098-104. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00076410. Epub 2011 May 3.


Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) provides life support in acute reversible cardiorespiratory failure. Assessment of long-term morbidity is essential to confirm survival advantage. This study aimed to assess exercise capacity in the first 12 yrs of life after neonatal ECMO, and to evaluate the effect of primary diagnosis, lung function or perinatal characteristics on exercise capacity. 120 children who, as neonates, underwent ECMO performed 191 reliable exercise tests according to the Bruce treadmill protocol at ages 5, 8 and/or 12 yrs between 2001 and 2010. Primary diagnoses were meconium aspiration syndrome (n=66), congenital diaphragmatic hernia (n=18) and other diagnoses (n=36). At ages 5, 8 and 12 yrs, ANOVA resulted in mean ± se standard deviation score endurance time on the treadmill of -0.5 ± 0.1, -1.1 ± 0.1, and -1.5 ± 0.2, respectively, all significantly less than zero (p<0.001). Exercise capacity declined significantly over time irrespective of the primary diagnosis. Neonates treated with ECMO are at risk of decreased exercise capacity at school age. We therefore propose prolonged follow-up. Proactive advice on sports participation or referral to a physical therapist is recommended, especially when either the parents or the children themselves report impaired exercise capacity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Gas Monitoring, Transcutaneous
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Tolerance*
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Spirometry
  • Vital Capacity