Compassionate use of continuous prostacyclin in the management of secondary pulmonary hypertension: a case series

Ann Intern Med. 1999 May 4;130(9):740-3. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-130-9-199905040-00014.


Background: Treatment of patients with secondary pulmonary hypertension has been unsatisfactory.

Objective: To describe exercise capacity, functional class, and hemodynamic variables after long-term intravenous infusion of prostacyclin in patients with secondary pulmonary hypertension.

Design: Case series.

Setting: Academic referral center.

Patients: 33 patients with secondary, precapillary pulmonary hypertension (New York Heart Association class III or IV).

Intervention: Continuous intravenous prostacyclin administered by portable infusion pump on a compassionate-use basis.

Measurements: Functional class, treadmill time, and hemodynamic variables.

Results: Patients were followed for an average of 12.7 +/- 5.6 months. Exercise tolerance and New York Heart Association class improved in each patient. The duration of treadmill exercise increased from 186 seconds to 491 seconds, an increase of 305 seconds (95% CI, 194 to 417 seconds; P < 0.001). Mean pulmonary artery pressure decreased from 60 mm Hg to 46 mm Hg, a decrease of 14 mm Hg (CI, 9 to 19 mm Hg; P < 0.001). Cardiac output increased from 3.90 L/min to 6.30 L/min, an increase of 2.40 L/min (CI, 1.56 to 3.25 L/min; P < 0.001). The pulmonary vascular resistance decreased from 1143 dynes x s/cm5 to 575 dynes x s/cm5, a decrease of 567 dynes x s/cm5 (CI, 407 to 727 dynes x s/cm5; P < 0.001). Patients with collagen vascular disease, congenital heart disease, and portopulmonary hypertension were analyzed with other patients and separately. All groups had a statistically significant reduction in mean pulmonary artery pressure and a statistically significant increase in cardiac output.

Conclusion: Intravenous prostacyclin may be effective in the treatment of patients with certain types of secondary pulmonary hypertension.

MeSH terms

  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Epoprostenol / therapeutic use*
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / etiology*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / physiopathology
  • Infusion Pumps
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Epoprostenol