Background: Meningococcal disease is still associated with considerable mortality, despite the use of early antibiotics and management in specialised intensive care units, due principally to early refractory myocardial depression and hypotension as well as severe acute respiratory distress syndrome. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a complex technology that uses a modified "heart-lung" machine to provide temporary cardiac and respiratory support. We reviewed the UK and Australian experience of the use of ECMO in patients with refractory cardiorespiratory failure due to meningococcal disease.
Methods: The records from all 12 known patients supported with ECMO for meningococcal disease in the UK and Australia since 1989 were reviewed.
Findings: 12 patients (aged 4 months to 18 years, median 26 months) with meningococcal disease received ECMO over 8 years. In seven patients, ECMO was required early for cardiac support for intractable shock within 36 h of admission to intensive care. In the other five patients, ECMO was indicated for respiratory failure due to severe adult respiratory distress syndrome, which tended to occur later in the disease. The paediatric risk of mortality score ranged from 13 to 40 (median 29, median predicted risk of mortality 72%). Six of the 12 patients required cardiopulmonary resuscitation before ECMO and the other six were deteriorating despite maximal conventional therapy. Overall, eight of the 12 patients survived, with six leading functionally normal lives at a median of 1 year (range 4 months to 4 years) of follow-up.
Interpretation: ECMO might be considered to support patients with intractable cardiorespiratory failure due to meningococcal disease who are not responding to conventional treatment.