Background: Despite good results in neonates, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is less well accepted in pediatric patients. Older children frequently undergo ECMO for severe bacterial, viral, or aspiration pneumonia and many have coexisting systemic sepsis. We reviewed data from a national registry to study the influence of sepsis on survival from ECMO.
Methods: Six hundred fifty-five patients (aged 2 weeks to 17 years) with respiratory failure treated with ECMO were divided into two groups by the presence (n = 76) or absence (n = 579) of sepsis. Groups were compared by univariate analysis and by multivariate logistic regression that considered 10 additional pre-ECMO variables (age, sex, weight, arterial blood gas results, ventilator parameters, and renal failure).
Results: By univariate analysis, survival was lower in septic children (36.8% versus 51.6%; p < 0.02). However, by multivariate analysis, sepsis was not an independent survival predictor (odds ratio, 0.578; 95% confidence interval, 0.288-1.162; p = 0.12). The ECMO complications predicted by the presence of sepsis included (1) seizures, (2) other neurologic complications, and (3) infection at other sites (all p < 0.05).
Conclusions: Systemic sepsis does not independently influence survival in pediatric ECMO. This therapy should not be withheld solely because of sepsis, although neurologic complications may occur more frequently.