Purpose: The optimal therapy for congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) is evolving. This study analyzes the results of treatment of CDH in a large tertiary care pediatric center using conventional and high-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV) without extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) contrasting these with a parallel study from a similar large urban center using conventional ventilation with ECMO.
Methods: Between 1981 and 1994, 223 consecutive neonates who had CDH diagnosed in the first 12 hours of life were referred for treatment before repair. Conventional ventilation was used with conversion to HFOV for refractory hypoxemia or hypercapnia, and a predicted near 100% mortality rate. ECMO was used in only three patients, all of whom died. A retrospective database was collected. Thirty-one clinical variables were tested for their association with the outcome. Common ventilatory and oxygenation indices were tested for their prognostic capability.
Results: Apgar scores, birth weight, right-sided defects, pneumothorax, total ventilatory time, and the use of high frequency oscillatory ventilation were the only variables associated with outcome. A modified ventilatory index and postductal A-aDo2 were strong prognostic indicators. From 1981 to 1984 surgery was performed on an emergency basis. Since 1985 surgery was deferred until stabilization had been achieved. This resulted in a shift in the mortality from postoperative to preoperative with no change in total survival. HFOV did not alter the overall survival. Results of autopsies performed (70%) showed significant pulmonary hypoplasia and barotrauma as the primary causes of death. The survival was 54.7%.
Conclusion: Conventional ventilation with HFOV produced equal survival to conventional ventilation with ECMO in two comparable series. Pulmonary hypoplasia was the principle cause of death. This continued high mortality at both centers suggests that new therapies are required to improve outcomes.