Common pulmonary vein atresia is a rare form of cyanotic congenital heart disease in which the pulmonary veins join to form a blind confluence that does not communicate with the heart or the major systemic veins. Twenty-one cases have been reported since the lesion was first described in 1962; only two patients with this lesion have survived. Over a 4-year period, common pulmonary vein atresia was diagnosed in five newborns referred to the San Diego Regional Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Program. All five improved dramatically as a result of venoarterial bypass. Congenital heart disease was diagnosed at autopsy in the initial case and by cardiac ultrasound and/or catheterization in the others. Surgical repair was attempted in three neonates; all three required continued extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support postoperatively because of pulmonary hypertension and severe pulmonary parenchymal disease. One infant died of respiratory insufficiency at 3 months of age. The other two survived and were discharged from the hospital. The diagnostic and therapeutic dilemmas posed by this lesion and the life-saving potential for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in this rapidly fatal cardiac anomaly are the bases of this report.

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