Role of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in children with sepsis: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Kollengode Ramanathan, Nicholas Yeo, Peta Alexander, Lakshmi Raman, Ryan Barbaro, Chuen Seng Tan, Luregn J. Schlapbach, Graeme MacLaren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: The benefits of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) in children with sepsis remain controversial. Current guidelines on management of septic shock in children recommend consideration of ECMO as salvage therapy. We sought to review peer-reviewed publications on effectiveness of ECMO in children with sepsis. Methods: Studies reporting on mortality in children with sepsis supported with ECMO, published in PubMed, Scopus and Embase from 1972 till February 2020, were included in the review. This study was done in adherence to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis statement after registering the review protocol with PROSPERO. Study eligibility was independently assessed by two authors and disagreements resolved by a third author. Publications were reviewed for quality using Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) system. Random-effects meta-analyses (DerSimonian and Laird) were conducted, and 95% confidence intervals were computed using the Clopper-Pearson method. Outliers were identified by the Baujat plot and leave-one-out analysis if there was considerable heterogeneity. The primary outcome measure was survival to discharge. Secondary outcome measures included hospital length of stay, subgroup analysis of neonatal and paediatric groups, types and duration of ECMO and complications. Results: Of the 2054 articles screened, we identified 23 original articles for systematic review and meta-analysis. Cumulative estimate of survival (13 studies, 2559 patients) in the cohort was 59% (95%CI: 51–67%). Patients had a median length of hospital stay of 28.8 days, median intensive care unit stay of 13.5 days, and median ECMO duration of 129 h. Children needing venoarterial ECMO (9 studies, 208 patients) showed overall pooled survival of 65% (95%CI: 50–80%). Neonates (< 4 weeks of age) with sepsis needing ECMO (7 studies, 85 neonates) had pooled survival of 73% (95%CI: 56- 87%). Gram positive organisms were the most common pathogens (47%) in septic children supported with ECMO. Conclusion: Survival rates of children with sepsis needing ECMO was 59%. Neonates had higher survival rates (73%); gram positive organisms accounted for most common infections in children needing ECMO. Despite limitations, pooled survival data from this review indicates consideration of ECMO in refractory septic shock for all pediatric age groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number684
JournalCritical Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Neonatal
  • Pediatric
  • Sepsis
  • Septic shock

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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