Pediatric ECMO Candidates at Non-ECMO Centers: Transfer, Cannulate, or Treat Locally?

Hosp Pediatr. 2021 Oct;11(10):1172-1178. doi: 10.1542/hpeds.2020-004929. Epub 2021 Sep 1.


Pediatric inpatient and intensive care specialists working outside of tertiary medical centers confront difficult clinical scenarios related to how best to care for extremely ill children who may or may not benefit from advanced medical technology, and these clinicians are often faced with limited local availability. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a technology that is only available at a subset of tertiary care centers, and the decision to risk the transfer of a child for the potential benefit of ECMO is challenging. This article is aimed at addressing the main factors and ethical principles related to this decision-making: (1) whether ECMO is the standard of care, (2) clinical decision analysis of the risks and benefits, (3) informed consent and education of the parents and/or guardians, and (4) institutional leadership decision-making. A decisional framework is proposed that incorporates a thoughtful shared decision-making algorithm.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Critical Care
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation*
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans