Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and congenital diaphragmatic hernia: should any infant be excluded?

J Pediatr Surg. 1990 Oct;25(10):1048-52; discussion 1052-3. doi: 10.1016/0022-3468(90)90216-v.


Mortality in infants with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) remains high despite improvements in neonatal and surgical care because many infants develop persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) following repair. Since 1984, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) has been used as rescue therapy in all infants (n = 25) with PPHN following CDH repair when conventional management failed, with an overall survival of 60%. Repair was performed in this hospital on 12 infants and in other hospitals in 13 infants transferred for consideration of ECMO after repair. Mortality was the same in the group repaired here and those transferred for ECMO. Although complications were frequent in the surviving group, they were successfully managed with nonoperative or operative therapy. Selective use of ECMO has been advocated in CDH patients based on various predictors of high mortality such as "best" PO2 postrepair less than 100 mm Hg, oxygenation index greater than 40, and ventilation index greater than 1,000 with PCO2 greater than 40. Seven surviving infants following ECMO would have been classified as unsalvageable by at least one parameter if selection criteria based on these parameters had been used. We conclude from this series that current predictors of high mortality in CDH patients are unreliable when ECMO is used. Surgeons caring for infants with CDH should consider the use of ECMO in all infants.

MeSH terms

  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation* / adverse effects
  • Hernia, Diaphragmatic / mortality
  • Hernia, Diaphragmatic / surgery
  • Hernias, Diaphragmatic, Congenital*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Persistent Fetal Circulation Syndrome / etiology
  • Persistent Fetal Circulation Syndrome / therapy*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Rate


  • Oxygen