We examined the cardiovascular function as well as the structure of the muscular pulmonary arteries in patients who had died while enrolled in the National Institutes of Health nocturnal oxygen therapy trial (NOTT). The cardiovascular function of the patients classified into groups based on the severity of the pulmonary hypertension was examined, and we compared the morphologic data in these groups to those obtained from age-matched controls who died with no evidence of cardiovascular disease. The groups with severe pulmonary hypertension had markedly increased pulmonary vascular resistance but similar cardiac index to the group with only mild hypertension. In the structural analyses, we found definite alterations in arterial structure from the control population: the patients who had pulmonary hypertension had markedly increased percentages of intima and media. These differences were most pronounced in the medium and larger muscular arteries. The degree of pulmonary hypertension did not appear to alter vascular structure consistently, although there was a trend towards an increase in muscle media in the smaller vessels. When the patients were classified into a group who responded to oxygen administration by a decrease in Ppa, and an age- and Ppa-matched group who did not respond, there were no differences in vascular structure between these groups, although both groups had greater percentages of intima and media compared to the control group. We conclude that, in patients with pulmonary hypertension secondary to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), there are structural alterations of the muscular pulmonary arteries, but these do not correlate with either the severity of the pulmonary hypertension or the ability of the pulmonary vasculature to respond to oxygen administration.