Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Characteristics and Outcomes in Children and Adolescents With COVID-19 or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome Admitted to U.S. ICUs

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2023 May 1;24(5):356-371. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0000000000003212. Epub 2023 Mar 30.


Objectives: Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) has been used successfully to support adults with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-related cardiac or respiratory failure refractory to conventional therapies. Comprehensive reports of children and adolescents with SARS-CoV-2-related ECMO support for conditions, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) and acute COVID-19, are needed.

Design: Case series of patients from the Overcoming COVID-19 public health surveillance registry.

Setting: Sixty-three hospitals in 32 U.S. states reporting to the registry between March 15, 2020, and December 31, 2021.

Patients: Patients less than 21 years admitted to the ICU meeting Centers for Disease Control criteria for MIS-C or acute COVID-19.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: The final cohort included 2,733 patients with MIS-C ( n = 1,530; 37 [2.4%] requiring ECMO) or acute COVID-19 ( n = 1,203; 71 [5.9%] requiring ECMO). ECMO patients in both groups were older than those without ECMO support (MIS-C median 15.4 vs 9.9 yr; acute COVID-19 median 15.3 vs 13.6 yr). The body mass index percentile was similar in the MIS-C ECMO versus no ECMO groups (89.9 vs 85.8; p = 0.22) but higher in the COVID-19 ECMO versus no ECMO groups (98.3 vs 96.5; p = 0.03). Patients on ECMO with MIS-C versus COVID-19 were supported more often with venoarterial ECMO (92% vs 41%) for primary cardiac indications (87% vs 23%), had ECMO initiated earlier (median 1 vs 5 d from hospitalization), shorter ECMO courses (median 3.9 vs 14 d), shorter hospital length of stay (median 20 vs 52 d), lower in-hospital mortality (27% vs 37%), and less major morbidity at discharge in survivors (new tracheostomy, oxygen or mechanical ventilation need or neurologic deficit; 0% vs 11%, 0% vs 20%, and 8% vs 15%, respectively). Most patients with MIS-C requiring ECMO support (87%) were admitted during the pre-Delta (variant B.1.617.2) period, while most patients with acute COVID-19 requiring ECMO support (70%) were admitted during the Delta variant period.

Conclusions: ECMO support for SARS-CoV-2-related critical illness was uncommon, but type, initiation, and duration of ECMO use in MIS-C and acute COVID-19 were markedly different. Like pre-pandemic pediatric ECMO cohorts, most patients survived to hospital discharge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Child
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2

Supplementary concepts

  • pediatric multisystem inflammatory disease, COVID-19 related
  • SARS-CoV-2 variants