Inhaled nitric oxide enhances oxygenation but not survival in infants with alveolar capillary dysplasia

J Pediatr. 1997 Mar;130(3):417-22. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(97)70203-8.


A complex vascular abnormality in the lungs, termed alveolar capillary dysplasia (ACD) and misalignment of the lung vessels, has been recently recognized in some infants with persistent pulmonary hypertension. These infants die despite maximal medical support including extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Inhaled nitric oxide has been reported to improve oxygenation in neonates with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, and may allow some infants to avoid the need for ECMO. We identified five infants who had received inhaled nitric oxide to treat refractory hypoxemia caused by persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, and who subsequently died and had autopsy confirmation of ACD. Each infant received care at a different medical center. In each patient, inhaled NO increased the arterial partial pressure of oxygen dramatically. Despite initial clinical improvement, the response to NO was not sustained in any patient. As responsiveness was lost, each infant with ACD required inhaled NO concentrations of 80 ppm or higher to sustain oxygenation. Each infant died, four after extensive periods of ECMO support. This experience demonstrates that a short-term improvement after inhalation of nitric oxide does not lead to long-term survival in ACD. Further, in three infants the diagnosis of ACD was established by lung biopsy before death. Increasing awareness of this clinical entity may allow for the avoidance of costly, invasive procedures such as ECMO until more specific therapies become available.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Capillaries / abnormalities
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / therapy
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lung / pathology
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide / administration & dosage
  • Nitric Oxide / therapeutic use*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Persistent Fetal Circulation Syndrome / etiology
  • Persistent Fetal Circulation Syndrome / mortality
  • Persistent Fetal Circulation Syndrome / pathology
  • Persistent Fetal Circulation Syndrome / therapy*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / blood supply*
  • Time Factors


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Oxygen