Intracranial hemorrhage is a complication of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for the treatment of neonatal respiratory failure. A retrospective review of 35 neonates treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation was performed; ten had intracranial hemorrhage. Infants with intracranial hemorrhage had lower birth weights and were gestationally younger than infants with intracranial hemorrhage. Eight of eight neonates of less than 35 weeks' gestational age sustained intracranial hemorrhage. Six died immediately after extracorporeal membrane oxygenation was stopped. Two lived less than 1 year. Two of 27 neonates older than 34 weeks' gestational age sustained intracranial hemorrhage. One child is normal, the other died at 18 months of age. Based on the results of this study, the risk of intracranial hemorrhage appears low in neonates of greater than 34 weeks' gestational age who undergo extracorporeal membrane oxygenation treatment for severe respiratory failure. The use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, as it is presently performed, is contraindicated in neonates of less than 35 weeks' gestational age because of the risk of intracranial hemorrhage.

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