When is extracorporeal life support worthwhile following repair of congenital heart disease in children?

Stephen M. Langley, Stuart V. Sheppard, Victor T. Tsang, James L. Monro, Robert K. Lamb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Background: Although the use of extracorporeal life support (ECLS) following repair of congenital heart defects in children is increasing, the criteria for ECLS usage in these patients is not well defined. The overall survival of such patients is disappointingly low and may depend on both the indication for support and the time at which ECLS is commenced. Methods: Between January 1993 and December 1996, 727 children underwent surgery for congenital heart defects at our institution with an overall hospital mortality of 5.8% (42 children). Nine of these children were treated with ECLS postoperatively. There were seven males and two females with a mean age of 7.2 months (range 2 weeks-3 years). Seven children could not be weaned from cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) in the operating theatre. A further two were treated with ECLS later on during the postoperative period (commenced at 14 and 48 h). Full veno-arterial extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support was used in all children except one in whom a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) was used. Results: The median duration of support was 121 h (range 15-648 h). Four children (44%) were weaned from support and two of these are long-term survivors. Of the seven children in whom ECLS was instituted because of failure to wean from CPB, there was one long term survivor (LVAD support). Of the two patients in whom ECLS was instituted during the post-operative period there is one long-term survivor. Conclusions: Weaning form ECLS and decannulation in 44% of our patients is comparable to other series of post-cardiotomy patients requiring ECLS. However, full veno-arterial ECMO instituted because of a failure to wean from CPB during corrective surgery is associated with an extremely poor outcome (zero long-term survivors in six patients).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-525
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Congenital heart disease
  • Extra corporeal membrane oxygenation
  • Life support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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