Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction: physiology and anesthetic implications

Anesthesiology. 2015 Apr;122(4):932-46. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000000569.


Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (HPV) represents a fundamental difference between the pulmonary and systemic circulations. HPV is active in utero, reducing pulmonary blood flow, and in adults helps to match regional ventilation and perfusion although it has little effect in healthy lungs. Many factors affect HPV including pH or PCO2, cardiac output, and several drugs, including antihypertensives. In patients with lung pathology and any patient having one-lung ventilation, HPV contributes to maintaining oxygenation, so anesthesiologists should be aware of the effects of anesthesia on this protective reflex. Intravenous anesthetic drugs have little effect on HPV, but it is attenuated by inhaled anesthetics, although less so with newer agents. The reflex is biphasic, and once the second phase becomes active after about an hour of hypoxia, this pulmonary vasoconstriction takes hours to reverse when normoxia returns. This has significant clinical implications for repeated periods of one-lung ventilation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Inhalation / administration & dosage*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / drug therapy
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Lung / blood supply*
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Pulmonary Circulation / drug effects
  • Pulmonary Circulation / physiology*
  • Vasoconstriction / drug effects
  • Vasoconstriction / physiology*


  • Anesthetics, Inhalation