Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn: Advances in diagnosis and treatment

Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2015 Aug;20(4):262-71. doi: 10.1016/j.siny.2015.03.001. Epub 2015 Apr 2.


Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) is a frequent cause for admission to the neonatal intensive care unit and is associated with mortality and variable morbidities. It is primarily a state of oxygenation failure representing a failure of the normal postnatal decline in pulmonary vascular resistance that may be associated with right ventricular dysfunction. Enhanced knowledge of the pathophysiologic contributors to this syndrome helps clinicians understand its phenotypic expression and facilitates more focused intensive care decision-making. The approach to treatment should be based on alleviation of the elevation in pulmonary vascular resistance and should include optimization of lung recruitment and judicious use of pulmonary vasodilators. When response to inhaled nitric oxide is suboptimal, the physiologic contributors to impaired oxygenation need further investigation. Targeted neonatal echocardiography provides novel physiologic insights; in particular, it may help assess the adequacy of right ventricular performance, the relative contribution of the fetal shunts and the magnitude of the overall impairment to cardiac output. This information may facilitate therapeutic next steps and whether adjunctive vasodilators or drugs to augment ventricular function are preferable. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the pathological contributors to PPHN, the physiologic constituents of its phenotypic expression, standard approach to therapeutic intervention, and the role of bedside echocardiography in enhancing the decision-making process.

Keywords: Echocardiography; Newborn; Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN); Phenotypic expression; Pulmonary hypertension.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Echocardiography
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / diagnosis
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / diagnostic imaging
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / physiopathology
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / therapy
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Persistent Fetal Circulation Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Persistent Fetal Circulation Syndrome / diagnostic imaging
  • Persistent Fetal Circulation Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Persistent Fetal Circulation Syndrome / therapy*
  • Point-of-Care Systems
  • Vascular Resistance / physiology
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Right / diagnosis
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Right / diagnostic imaging
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Right / physiopathology
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Right / therapy