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Role of ECMO in congenital diaphragmatic hernia
  1. Merrill McHoney,
  2. Philip Hammond
  1. Paediatric Surgery, Royal Hospital for Sick Children Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Merrill McHoney, Royal Hospital for Sick Children Edinburgh, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH1 1LF, UK; merrillmchoney{at}


Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) is typified morphologically by failure of diaphragmatic development with accompanying lung hypoplasia and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). Patients who have labile physiology and low preductal saturations despite optimal ventilatory and inotropic support may be considered for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Systematic reviews into the benefits of ECMO in CDH concluded that any benefit is unclear. Few randomised trials exist to demonstrate clear benefit and guide management. However, ECMO may have its uses in those that have reversibility of their respiratory disease. A few centres and networks have demonstrated an increase in survival rate by post hoc analysis (based on a difference in referral patterns with the availability of ECMO) in their series. One issue may be that of careful patient selection with regard to reversibility of pathophysiology. At present, there is no single test or prognostication that predicts reversibility of PPHN and criteria for referral for ECMO is undergoing continued refinement. Overall survival is similar between cannulation modes. There is no consensus on the time limit for ECMO runs. The optimal timing of surgery for patients on ECMO is difficult to definitively establish, but it seems that repair at an early stage (with careful perioperative management) is becoming less of a taboo, and may improve outcome and help with either coming off ECMO or decisions on withdrawal later. The provision of ECMO will continue to be evaluated, and prospective randomised trial are needed to help answer question of patient selection and management.

  • Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia
  • Pulmonary Hypertension
  • Ecmo

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  • Contributors Both authors have contributed to the design and writing of the manuscript, seen and approved the final manuscript and agreed with the content of the manuscript with regard to the review works.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.