Background: Toxic deaths due to intensified treatment are of increasing concern in view of the generally improved prognosis for children with malignancies. Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) during immunosuppressive treatment in children with malignancies is a severe complication with a poor prognosis if mechanical ventilation is required. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a recognized technique that provides temporary respiratory support for patients with intractable respiratory failure.
Procedure: We here report successful ECMO support in four children with PCP, secondary to chemotherapy-induced immunosuppression, in whom the respiratory situation deteriorated despite pharmacological treatment and mechanical ventilation. The duration of ECMO was 7-43 days.
Results: Three children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia recovered from their PCP to continue chemotherapy and are now in complete continuous remission. Their pulmonary function normalized completely during 6-12 months after ECMO therapy. One child with a primitive neuroectodermal tumor survived the PCP and was off ECMO for 11 days before succumbing to unrelated complications.
Conclusions: We conclude that ECMO offers an important means of respiratory support in children with severe PCP that can also be adopted during treatment for malignant disease.