Achieving effective anticoagulation during neonatal extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) without increasing the risk of hemorrhage remains challenging. The use of antithrombin III (AT-III) for this purpose has been examined, but studies have been limited to intermittent bolus dosing. We aimed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of an institutionally developed AT-III continuous infusion protocol in neonates receiving ECMO for the treatment of congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH).
In this single center, retrospective study, all neonates with a CDH who received ECMO support during the study period were included. Data on anticoagulation labs and therapy, life-threatening bleeding, and circuit changes were analyzed.
Eleven patients were divided into two groups: patients with AT-III continuous infusion (n = 5) and without (n = 6). There were no differences in the gestational age (p = 0.29), sex (p = 1.00), ECMO duration (p = 0.59), or initial AT-III levels (p = 0.76) between groups. Patients in the AT-III infusion group had on average 18.5% higher AT-III levels (p < 0.0001). Patients receiving continuous AT-III infusions spent a significantly higher percentage of ECMO time within the therapeutic range, measured using anti-Factor Xa levels (64.9±4.2% vs. 29.1±8.57%, p = 0.008), and required fewer changes to the heparin infusion rate (6.48±0.88 vs 2.38±0.36 changes/day changes/day, p = 0.005). Multivariate analysis revealed continuous infusion of AT-III did not increase the rate of intracranial or surgical bleeding (p = 0.27).
AT-III as a continuous infusion in CDH neonates on ECMO provides a decreased need to modify heparin infusion and more consistent therapeutic anticoagulation without increasing the risk of life-threatening bleeding.