Congenital diaphragmatic hernia: developing a protocolized approach

J Pediatr Surg. 1998 Sep;33(9):1331-7. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3468(98)90001-x.


Background/purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the evolving outcome of newborns who have congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) using a protocolized approach to management, which includes extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and to present the details of such a management protocol.

Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted of the neonatal outcome of near-term (>34 weeks' gestation) newborns with CDH all referred to the Royal Alexandra Hospital either before or after delivery. A protocol was developed that included antenatal assessment, the use of antenatal steroids, planned delivery, use of prophylactic surfactant, pressure limited gentle ventilation, permissive hypercarbia and hypoxia, and venovenous ECMO, if indicated.

Results: Sixty-five infants with CDH were treated from February 1989 through August 1996. Twenty-three infants were inborn, 20 of whom were antenatal referrals. Overall, 51 of the 65 infants survived (78%). Thirteen of the 23 inborn infants survived with conservative management, and 10 required ECMO, of whom, eight were long-term survivors. Thirty-eight infants required ECMO, and 26 survived (68%), whereas there were only two deaths among the 27 conservatively treated infants. Eighteen of 20 inborn infants with an antenatal diagnosis survived, compared with 13 of 21 (62%) outborn infants. An antenatal diagnosis before 25 weeks' gestation was associated with a 60% survival rate. Sixty-three percent of infants whose best postductal PaO2 value before ECMO was less than 100 torr survived, and 7 of 11 infants with a best postductal PaO2 value of less than 50 torr before ECMO survived (64%). The average age at surgery progressively increased over time both for infants who did not require ECMO (1.3 days to 5.8 days; P = .01) and for infants who received ECMO (1.9 days to 8.2 days; P = .016).

Conclusions: The use of a protocolized management for infants with CDH has been associated with improving outcome in a population at high risk. The components (either separately or combined) of these protocolized approaches need to be tested in prospective trials to determine their true benefit. In addition, there is a need to evaluate prospectively the outcomes of infants with CDH born in ECMO centers compared with those infants born in other tertiary care neonatal units to determine the most appropriate management of the fetus with CDH.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Dexamethasone / administration & dosage
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation*
  • Hernia, Diaphragmatic / physiopathology
  • Hernia, Diaphragmatic / therapy*
  • Hernias, Diaphragmatic, Congenital*
  • Humans
  • Hypercapnia
  • Hypoxia
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / administration & dosage
  • Pulmonary Ventilation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Pulmonary Surfactants
  • Dexamethasone