Inhaled prostacyclin is safe, effective, and affordable in patients with pulmonary hypertension, right heart dysfunction, and refractory hypoxemia after cardiothoracic surgery

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2004 Apr;127(4):1058-67. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2003.11.035.


Background: The purpose of this study was to describe our institutional experience in using inhaled prostacyclin as a selective pulmonary vasodilator in patients with pulmonary hypertension, refractory hypoxemia, and right heart dysfunction after cardiothoracic surgery.

Methods: Between February 2001 and March 2003, cardiothoracic surgical patients with pulmonary hypertension (mean pulmonary artery pressure >30 mm Hg or systolic pulmonary artery pressure >40 mm Hg), hypoxemia (PaO(2)/fraction of inspired oxygen <150 mm Hg), or right heart dysfunction (central venous pressure >16 mm Hg and cardiac index <2.2 L.min(-1).m(-2)) were prospectively administered inhaled prostacyclin at an initial concentration of 20,000 ng/mL and then weaned per protocol. Hemodynamic variables were measured before the initiation of inhaled prostacyclin, 30 to 60 minutes after initiation, and again 4 to 6 hours later.

Results: One hundred twenty-six patients were enrolled during the study period. At both time points, inhaled prostacyclin significantly decreased the mean pulmonary artery pressure without altering the mean arterial pressure. The average length of time on inhaled prostacyclin was 45.6 hours. There were no adverse events attributable to inhaled prostacyclin. The average cost for inhaled prostacyclin was 150 US dollars per day. Compared with nitric oxide, which costs 3000 US dollars per day, the potential cost savings over this period were 681,686 US dollars.

Conclusions: Inhaled prostacyclin seems to be a safe and effective pulmonary vasodilator for cardiothoracic surgical patients with pulmonary hypertension, refractory hypoxemia, or right heart dysfunction. Overall, inhaled prostacyclin significantly decreases mean pulmonary artery pressures without altering the mean arterial pressure. Compared with nitric oxide, there is no special equipment required for administration or toxicity monitoring, and the cost savings are substantial.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antihypertensive Agents / economics*
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Bronchodilator Agents / economics
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Cost Savings / economics
  • Epoprostenol / economics*
  • Epoprostenol / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / mortality
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / therapy*
  • Hypoxia / mortality
  • Hypoxia / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitric Oxide / economics
  • Nitric Oxide / therapeutic use
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration
  • Prospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vasodilator Agents / economics
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Ventilation-Perfusion Ratio / drug effects
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Right / mortality
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Right / therapy*


  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Epoprostenol