Objectives: To switch patients with severe pulmonary hypertension and previous life-threatening catheter-related complications from long-term IV epoprostenol therapy to aerosolized iloprost therapy.
Design: Open, uncontrolled trial.
Setting: Medical ICU of a university hospital.
Patients: Two patients with primary pulmonary hypertension and one patient with pulmonary hypertension after surgical closure of atrial septal defect (mean pulmonary artery pressure > or =50 mm Hg). All were classified as New York Heart Association class II under treatment with continuous IV epoprostenol for 4 years.
Interventions: Stepwise reduction of IV epoprostenol (1 ng/kg/min steps every 3 to 10 h) during repeated inhalations of aerosolized iloprost (150 to 300 microg/d with 6 to 18 inhalations/d). Continuous pulmonary and systemic arterial monitoring were performed.
Results: Aerosolized iloprost reduced pulmonary artery pressure by 49%, 49%, and 45%, respectively, and increased cardiac output by 70%, 75%, and 41% in the three patients. The effect lasted for 20 min and was similar at different doses of IV epoprostenol. Persistent treatment change to inhaled iloprost could not be achieved because all patients developed signs of right heart failure. After termination of iloprost inhalations, return to standard epoprostenol therapy led to clinical and hemodynamic restoration.
Conclusions: Although aerosolized iloprost demonstrated short-term hemodynamic effects, it could not be utilized as alternative chronic vasodilator in patients with severe pulmonary hypertension.