Background: Pulmonary hypertension is associated with congenital heart lesions with increased pulmonary blood flow. Acute increases in pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR) occur in the postoperative period after repair of these defects. These increases in PVR can be ablated by inducing an alkalosis with hyperventilation (HV) or bicarbonate therapy. Studies have shown that these patients also respond to inhaled nitric oxide (iNO), but uncertainty exists over the relative merits and undesirable effects of HV and iNO.
Hypothesis: Alkalosis and iNO are equally effective in reducing PVR and pulmonary artery pressure (PAP) in children with pulmonary hypertension after open heart surgery.
Setting: Critical care unit of a tertiary care pediatric hospital.
Design: Prospective, randomized, crossover design.
Patients: Twelve children with a mean PAP > 25 mm Hg at normal pH after biventricular repair of congenital heart disease.
Interventions: Patients were assigned to receive iNO or HV (pH > 7.5) in random order, and the effect on hemodynamics was measured. Each treatment was administered for 30 mins with a 30-min washout period between treatments. Finally, both treatments were administered together to look for a possible additive effect.
Measurements and main results: Cardiac output and derived hemodynamic parameters using the dye dilution technique. Hyperventilation, achieved by an increase in ventilator rate without a change in mean airway pressure, decreased Pa(CO2) from a mean (SD) of 43.7+/-5.3 to 32.3+/-5.4 mm Hg and increased pH from 7.40+/-0.04 to 7.50+/-0.03. This significantly altered both pulmonary and systemic hemodynamics with a reduction in PAP, PVR, central venous pressure, and cardiac output and an increase in systemic vascular resistance. In comparison, iNO selectively reduced PAP and PVR only. The reduction in PVR was comparable between treatments, although addition of iNO to HV resulted in a small additional reduction in PVR. An additional decrease in PAP was seen when HV was added to iNO, attributable to a reduction in cardiac output rather than a further decrease in PVR.
Conclusions: Inhaled NO and HV are both effective at lowering PAP and PVR in children with pulmonary hypertension after repair of congenital heart disease. The selective action of iNO on the pulmonary circulation offers advantages over HV because a decrease in cardiac output and an increase in SVR are undesirable in the postoperative period.