ECMO in evolution: The impact of changing patient demographics and alternative therapies on ECMO

J. M. Wilson, L. K. Bower, J. E. Thompson, D. O. Fauza, J. C. Fackler, K. P. Lally, A. G. Coran, B. W. Warner, P. C. Guzzetta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The incidence of neonatal extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is decreasing nationally. This decrease is presumed to be a result of the emergence of alternative technologies such as high-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV), nitric oxide (NO), and surfactant therapy as well as others. The purposes of the present report were to determine just how rapidly the demographics of ECMO are changing and to determine the impact of competing technologies on ECMO use. The authors reviewed their entire ECMO experience of 455 cases (370 neonatal, 38 pediatric, and 47 cardiac). The neonatal cases also were separated into diagnostic groups: MAS (meconium aspiration syndrome), PPHN (persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn), RDS (respiratory distress syndrome), and sepsis. To allow statistical comparison, the patients were divided into four chronological groups, of equal 3-year duration, spanning the 12 years that ECMO has been available. The results of the analysis demonstrated four principle findings. (1) The total number of patients receiving ECMO per year was declining (P = .0001). This decline was attributable to a reduction in the total number of neonatal patients, with the exception of cases of congenital diaphragmatic hernia. (2) The complexity of each ECMO run was increasing, as evidenced by substantial increases in mean ECMO duration per patient and an increase in the incidence of patient complications on ECMO (P = .0001). (3) There has been a significant decrease in the overall survival rate for patients treated with ECMO (P = .0001). (4) The ECMO population mix has shifted away from straightforward neonatal cases and toward the more complex pediatric and cardiac cases. This demographic shift has occurred as s result of improvements in pre-ECMO management of neonatal patients, and is primarily responsible for the findings noted above. However, there also has been a worsening of condition severity within each diagnostic group, which also is partly responsible for the changes noted. If these trends continue, pediatric, cardiac, and CDH patients will likely account for the majority of ECMO patients. Consequently, existing ECMO centers must be prepared to adapt to the changing demographics by evolving programs that support pediatric, cardiac, and adult patients, in addition to neonates. Furthermore, the complexity associated with transporting these unstable older patients and the likelihood that the number of active ECMO centers will decline may require remaining ECMO centers to develop long-distance ECMO transport capabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1116-1123
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of pediatric surgery
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
  • congenital diaphragmatic hernia
  • high-frequency oscillating ventilation
  • meconium aspiration syndrome
  • nitric oxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


Dive into the research topics of 'ECMO in evolution: The impact of changing patient demographics and alternative therapies on ECMO'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this