Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a life-saving procedure in patients with severe respiratory failure, unresponsive to conventional therapy. We reviewed our series of 70 ECMO runs (April 1997 to December 2005) in patients with respiratory distress, refractory to standard ventilation. Survival at 90 days was 42.7%. Besides age, we found no statistical significant difference in patient demographics or preoperative patient data between survivors and nonsurvivors. Univariate analyses indicated that pH values at 24 and 48 h after onset of ECMO were significantly higher in survivors. In multivariate analysis, age and pH at 48 h remained independent predictors of survival. ECMO in respiratory failure saves lives. No other demographic or preoperative, patient-related parameter than age was identified as predictor of survival. Although there was no difference in pH at onset of ECMO, blood gas analysis at 48 h revealed pH as an independent predictor of survival.