INTRODUCTION H1N1 influenza can cause severe acute lung injury (ALI). Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) can support gas exchange in patients failing conventional mechanical ventilation, but its role is still controversial. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis on ECMO for H1N1-associated ALI. METHODS CENTRAL, Google Scholar, MEDLINE/PubMed and Scopus (updated 2 January 2012) were systematically searched. Studies reporting on 10 or more patients with H1N1 infection treated with ECMO were included. Baseline, procedural, outcome and validity data were systematically appraised and pooled, when appropriate, with random-effect methods. RESULTS From 1,196 initial citations, 8 studies were selected, including 1,357 patients with confirmed/suspected H1N1 infection requiring intensive care unit admission, 266 (20%) of whom were treated with ECMO. Patients had a median Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score of 9, and had received mechanical ventilation before ECMO implementation for a median of two days. ECMO was implanted before inter-hospital patient transfer in 72% of cases and in most patients (94%) the veno-venous configuration was used. ECMO was maintained for a median of 10 days. Outcomes were highly variable among the included studies, with in-hospital or short-term mortality ranging between 8% and 65%, mainly depending on baseline patient features. Random-effect pooled estimates suggested an overall in-hospital mortality of 28% (95% confidence interval 18% to 37%; I² = 64%). CONCLUSIONS ECMO is feasible and effective in patients with ALI due to H1N1 infection. Despite this, prolonged support (more than one week) is required in most cases, and subjects with severe comorbidities or multiorgan failure remain at high risk of in-hospital death.