1. Mok, Yee Hui MBBS, MRCPCH
  2. Lee, Jan Hau MBBS, MRCPCH, MCI
  3. Cheifetz, Ira M. MD, FCCM, FAARC


Background: Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) can be deployed to support patients with severe cardiorespiratory failure unresponsive to conventional medical interventions. Neonatal trials have demonstrated that ECMO is an effective treatment of severe respiratory failure, with acceptable cognitive and functional outcomes. Technological advances in ECMO have resulted in improved safety and accessibility, contributing to decreased morbidity and improved survival of increasingly complex patients requiring ECMO support.


Purpose: This review aims to describe the innovations in ECMO technology and management in the neonatal population in the last decade. The long-term outcomes of neonatal patients requiring ECMO support will be discussed.


Search Strategy: Relevant clinical trials from MEDLINE and the Cochrane Library were identified. The following key words were used: ECMO, infant, neonate, and outcomes.


Findings: Challenges still remain in supporting the premature and/or low-birth-weight infant with severe respiratory failure, as well as infants with congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Neonatal ECMO survivors can present with neurodevelopmental and respiratory problems, which become more prominent with time.


Implications for Practice: While newer technologies have led to fewer neonates with respiratory failure progressing to ECMO, it remains an important tool to in those who have failed conventional therapies. Given the presence of neurodevelopmental problems in neonatal ECMO survivors, multidisciplinary follow-up targeting motor performance, exercise capacity, behavior, and subtle learning deficits is warranted.


Implications for Research: With the overall decreasing use of neonatal ECMO, ECMO centers must find ways to maintain their expertise in the light of lower patient volumes amidst complex patient physiology.