Ventilatory predictors of pulmonary hypoplasia in congenital diaphragmatic hernia, confirmed by morphologic assessment

J Pediatr. 1987 Sep;111(3):423-31. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(87)80474-2.


We carried out a prospective study in 66 infants with congenital diaphragmatic hernia within the first 6 hours of life to determine whether outcome is related to the degree of underlying pulmonary hypoplasia, as predicted by preoperative PaCO2, when correlated with an index of ventilation (VI = mean airway pressure X respiratory rate) and confirmed by postmortem analysis of the lung. Those infants with PaCO2 greater than 40 mm Hg before surgery had a 77% mortality; when PaCO2 reduction could be achieved only with VI greater than 1000, the mortality was still greater than 50%. After repair, however, the ability to hyperventilate to PaCO2 less than 40 mm Hg proved to be an important determinant of survival; only one of 31 infants in this group died, whereas only two of 27 infants with PaCO2 greater than 40 mm Hg survived. In 16 infants with PaCO2 greater than 40 mm Hg despite hyperventilation, high-frequency oscillatory ventilation was started. This resulted in a rapid fall in PaCO2, but 14 of the 16 infants had only temporary improvement in oxygenation, and died. In five of the infants who died, alveolar number was assessed by postmortem morphometric analysis; there was a severe reduction to less than 10% of published normal neonatal values. Pulmonary vascular changes of increased muscularization were less remarkable than those observed in infants with persistent pulmonary hypertension. Our findings suggest that the degree of pulmonary hypoplasia (which would not be influenced by surgical repair), rather than the pulmonary vascular abnormality, mainly determines survival. Consideration could therefore be given to an initial nonsurgical approach to congenital diaphragmatic hernia, with the expectation that pulmonary function might improve and pulmonary vascular resistance decrease.

MeSH terms

  • Hernia, Diaphragmatic / mortality
  • Hernia, Diaphragmatic / pathology
  • Hernias, Diaphragmatic, Congenital*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lung / abnormalities*
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Artery / abnormalities
  • Pulmonary Circulation
  • Vascular Resistance