Congenital heart disease (CHD) leading to increased pulmonary blood pressure and flow is an important cause of pulmonary plexogenic arteriopathy (PPA). This type of arteriopathy tends to progress to an irreversible stage, hallmarked histologically by the emergence of a number of characteristic lesions, which include concentric laminar intimal proliferation and fibrosis, and plexiform lesions. The pathogenesis of these lesions, which connote a very poor prognosis, is not well understood. Since endothelial cell proliferation has been demonstrated in these lesions, it was hypothesized that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a key mediator of angiogenesis, might play a role in their pathogenesis. Thirty-nine patients with various types of CHD, who underwent cardiac catheterization and subsequent cardiac surgery, were studied prospectively. On the basis of a detailed assessment of the type of cardiac defect, the haemodynamic abnormalities, and the histopathological features evident from open lung biopsies, taken in all instances, patients were histologically grouped into cases with moderate PPA (n=18), advanced PPA (n=7), pulmonary congestive vasculopathy (PCV, n=5), and controls lacking pulmonary hypertension or increased pulmonary blood flow (n=4). Five patients were excluded from analysis because of inadequate sample size or quality. The presence of VEGF was assessed immunohistochemically using standard procedures and was correlated with haemodynamic and histological data. Immunoreactive VEGF was detected in pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells in 13 out of 34 cases and was more frequent and more pronounced in patients with the histological lesions of advanced PPA than in those with moderate PPA (p<0.01). VEGF positivity was particularly prominent in the lesions characteristic of advanced PPA. No difference in VEGF expression was observed between controls, PVC, and moderate PPA cases. Measured haemodynamic parameters did not differ significantly between VEGF-positive and VEGF-negative cases. We conclude that VEGF may play a role in the angioproliferative changes of advanced PPA.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.