Role of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in pediatric cancer patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies

Valerie Slooff, Rianne Hoogendoorn, Jeppe Sylvest Angaard Nielsen, John Pappachan, Angela Amigoni, Fabio Caramelli, Omer Aziz, Enno Wildschut, Sascha Verbruggen, Roman Crazzolara, Christian Dohna-Schwake, Jenny Potratz, Jef Willems, Judit Llevadias, Andrea Moscatelli, Alessia Montaguti, Gabriella Bottari, Matteo Di Nardo, Luregn Schlapbach, Roelie Wösten-van Asperen*the POKER (PICU Oncology Kids in Europe Research group) research consortium of ESPNIC (European Society of Paediatric Neonatal Intensive Care)

*Corresponding author for this work
3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) in pediatric patients with underlying malignancies remains controversial. However, in an era in which the survival rates for children with malignancies have increased significantly and several recent reports have demonstrated effective ECMO use in children with cancer, we aimed to estimate the outcome and complications of ECMO treatment in these children. Methods: We searched MEDLINE, Embase and CINAHL databases for studies on the use ECMO in pediatric patients with an underlying malignancy from inception to September 2020. This review was conducted in adherence to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis statement. Study eligibility was independently assessed by two authors and disagreements resolved by a third author. Included studies were evaluated for quality using the Newcastle–Ottawa Scale (NOS). Random effects meta-analyses (DerSimonian and Laird) were performed. The primary outcomes were mortality during ECMO or hospital mortality. Results: Thirteen retrospective, observational cohort studies were included, most of moderate quality (625 patients). The commonest indication for ECMO was severe respiratory failure (92%). Pooled mortality during ECMO was 55% (95% confidence interval [CI], 47–63%) and pooled hospital mortality was 60% (95% CI 54–67%). Although heterogeneity among the included studies was low, confidence intervals were large. In addition, the majority of the data were derived from registries with overlapping patients which were excluded for the meta-analyses to prevent resampling of the same participants across the included studies. Finally, there was a lack of consistent complications reporting among the studies. Conclusion: Significantly higher mortalities than in general PICU patients was reported with the use of ECMO in children with malignancies. Although these results need to be interpreted with caution due to the lack of granular data, they suggest that ECMO appears to represents a viable rescue option for selected patients with underlying malignancies. There is an urgent need for additional data to define patients for whom ECMO may provide benefit or harm.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalAnnals of Intensive Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Cancer
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
  • Meta-analysis
  • Outcomes
  • Pediatric intensive care unit
  • Systematic review


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