Background: Intravenous administration of some liposomal drugs can trigger immediate hypersensitivity reactions that include symptoms of cardiopulmonary distress. The mechanism underlying the cardiovascular changes has not been clarified.
Methods and results: Anesthetized pigs (n=18) were injected intravenously with 5-mg boluses of large multilamellar liposomes, and the ensuing hemodynamic, hematologic, and laboratory changes were recorded. The significant (P<0.01) alterations included 79+/-9% (mean+/-SEM) rise in pulmonary arterial pressure, 30+/-7% decline in cardiac output, 11+/-2% increase in heart rate, 236+/-54% increase in pulmonary vascular resistance, 71+/-27% increase in systemic vascular resistance, and up to a 100-fold increase in plasma thromboxane B2. These changes peaked between 1 and 5 minutes after injection, subsided within 10 to 20 minutes, were lipid dose-dependent (ED50=4. 5+/-1.4 mg), and were quantitatively reproducible in the same animal several times over 7 hours. The liposome-induced rises of pulmonary arterial pressure showed close quantitative and temporal correlation with elevations of plasma thromboxane B2 and were inhibited by an anti-C5a monoclonal antibody (GS1), by sCR1, or by indomethacin. Liposomes caused C5a production in pig serum in vitro through classic pathway activation and bound IgG and IgM natural antibodies. Zymosan- and hemoglobin-containing liposomes and empty liposomes caused essentially identical pulmonary changes.
Conclusions: The intense, nontachyphylactic, highly reproducible, complement-mediated pulmonary hypertensive effect of minute amounts of intravenous liposomes in pigs represents a unique, unexplored phenomenon in circulation physiology. The model provides highly sensitive detection and study of cardiopulmonary side effects of liposomal drugs and many other pharmaceutical products due to "complement activation-related pseudoallergy" (CARPA).