Objective: To evaluate the short- and long-term effects of intravenous epoprostenol in patients with pulmonary hypertension (PH) associated with systemic sclerosis (SSc).
Methods: Sixteen patients with SSc-associated PH and New York Heart Association (NYHA) class III or IV symptomatology underwent right heart catheterization for determination of baseline hemodynamic values. Vasoreactivity was assessed with either inhaled nitric oxide or intravenous adenosine. After a medication washout period, all patients received intravenous epoprostenol in incrementally increasing doses; tolerance was assessed according to symptoms and hemodynamic findings at each dose increment and at the conclusion of the medication trial. Once a stable medication regimen was established, patients were discharged and followed up as outpatients for assessment of symptoms and exercise tolerance as measured by change in the NYHA class. Repeat hemodynamic testing was performed in 4 patients at 1 year and in 2 patients at 2 years of treatment.
Results: Therapeutic response to epoprostenol, defined by a reduction in the pulmonary vascular resistance of > or =25%, was achieved in the short-term treatment period in 13 of 16 patients (81.3%). Improvement in symptoms and exercise tolerance occurred in all patients, and a significant short-term hemodynamic response was observed. Followup hemodynamic tests revealed persistent favorable responses in all 4 of the patients studied.
Conclusion: Most patients with PH secondary to SSc manifest favorable hemodynamic responses to epoprostenol in the short term. Long-term epoprostenol was generally well tolerated and provides a potential therapeutic option for patients with PH secondary to SSc.