Extending the limits of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation: lung rest for a child with non-specific interstitial pneumonia

Iain Macintosh, Warwick W Butt, Colin F Robertson, Derek Best, Lara S Shekerdemian
Intensive Care Medicine 2005, 31 (7): 993-6

OBJECTIVE: Veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is an established therapy for the treatment of respiratory failure. Traditionally ECMO has been used to support patients with an acute, reversible disease process, with a predictable outcome. We report the successful use of veno-venous ECMO for an unusual indication.

PATIENT: A 10-year old girl was admitted to intensive care with severe, hypoxic respiratory failure on the background of a 2-month history of worsening respiratory symptoms. She required high levels of conventional positive pressure ventilation, and high frequency oscillation. Lung biopsy confirmed a non-specific interstitial pneumonia, and the patient was commenced on immune suppressive therapy. Her clinical course was further complicated by pulmonary haemorrhage and severe air leak.

INTERVENTIONS: On day 20 after admission the patient was placed on veno-venous ECMO for lung rest while awaiting a response to continued medical treatment. She required ECMO for 20 days, during which time sedation was reduced, and she was able to interact with those around her. The patient's ventilatory requirements after decannulation were minimal, and she subsequently made a steady clinical recovery.

CONCLUSIONS: ECMO was safely and successfully used to provide a period of lung rest and time for medical therapy to take effect in a child with an unusual indication for support: a rare disease with an uncertain outcome on the background of prolonged mechanical ventilation.

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