The physiological variables that govern recovery of pulmonary function during neonatal extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) remain poorly understood. We hypothesized that pulmonary hypertension (PHN) resolves soon after starting ECMO and that neonatal weight gain, pulmonary edema, and fluid mobilization are major determinants of recovery of pulmonary function and the ability to decrease ECMO support. To evaluate this, 17 consecutive neonates requiring ECMO for severe respiratory failure were reviewed. PHN was studied by daily echocardiography to assess the direction of ductal shunting. To evaluate fluid flux, pulmonary function, and edema during ECMO, we measured body weight, urine output, and ECMO flow every 12 hours. To evaluate pulmonary edema, serial chest radiographs obtained every 12 hours were randomly reviewed and scored by two radiologists with a semiquantitative chest radiograph index score (CRIS). By 25% of bypass time, PHN had resolved in all patients. However, at that time, weight had increased to 9.16% ± 1.78% above birth weight, and the CRIS was 44% worse than the value just prior to ECMO. From 25% time on bypass, as urine output increased, patient weight and CRIS progressively decreased, allowing ECMO support to be weaned. At the time of discontinuation of ECMO support, weight had decreased to 2.0% ± 1.3% above birth weight, and urine output remained steady at 3.0 ± 0.3 mL/kg/h. Within 24 hours of stopping ECMO, the CRIS showed a 58% improvement compared to maximal scores during ECMO. We conclude that PHN decreases early in ECMO and that edema and its mobilization are important determinants of the improvement in pulmonary function and duration of ECMO. Strategies to avoid fluid accumulation and aggressively mobilize excess fluid should result in a shorter time on ECMO and potentially decrease morbidity and mortality.
- Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
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