Objective: To determine the incidence and outcome and to review the management of alveolar capillary dysplasia (ACD) among newborns with severe idiopathic persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN).
Methods: A retrospective review of medical records of infants admitted to a paediatric intensive care unit from 1982 to 2000 with a diagnosis of severe PPHN, and re-examination of lung histological sections was carried out.
Results: Thirteen new-born infants with pulmonary hypertension not associated with any known cause were identified. All were treated with conventional mechanical ventilation or high-frequency oscillatory ventilation with high inspired-oxygen and non-specific pulmonary vasodilators. Nine infants were also treated with inhaled nitric oxide therapy and eight with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Seven infants died and six survived. At autopsies, the histological features of ACD were seen in the six who had died in the newborn period. All these had been treated with ECMO. In two of these six infants, lung biopsies had been performed showing similar features, suggesting the possibility of diagnosis during life. In the remaining infant, who died at 3 months of age, there was only marked hypertrophy of the muscle coat in the small pulmonary arteries.
Conclusions: Alveolar capillary dysplasia is probably not as rare a condition as previously suggested in sporadic case reports from literature on the subject. It should be entertained as a cause of otherwise severe idiopathic PPHN of the newborn, particularly if ECMO is required. Diagnosis during life is possible by lung biopsy. It is uncertain if survival occurs with milder forms of the condition.