Neonatal Respiratory and Cardiac ECMO in Europe

Eur J Pediatr. 2021 Jun;180(6):1675-1692

Neonatal extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a life-saving procedure for critically ill neonates suffering from a potentially reversible disease, causing severe cardiac and/or respiratory failure and refractory to maximal conventional management. Since the 1970s, technology, management, and clinical applications of neonatal ECMO have changed. Pulmonary diseases still represent the principal neonatal diagnosis, with an overall 74% survival rate, and up to one-third of cases are due to congenital diaphragmatic hernia. The overall survival rate in cardiac ECMO is lower, with congenital heart defect representing the main indication. This review provides an overview of the available evidence in the field of neonatal ECMO. We will address the changing epidemiology, basic principles, technologic advances in circuitry, and monitoring, and deliver a current multidisciplinary management framework, focusing on ECMO applications, complications, and long-term morbidities. Lastly, areas for further research will be highlighted.

ECMO is a life support with a potential impact on long-term patients’ outcomes. In the next years, advances in knowledge, technology, and expertise may push neonatal ECMO boundaries towards more premature and increasingly complex infants, with the final aim to reduce the burden of ECMO-related complications and improve overall patients’ outcomes.