Acute lung injury is characterized by hypoxemia due to pulmonary ventilation/perfusion-mismatching. I.v. administered prostaglandin E1 (PGE1), a vasodilator with a high pulmonary clearance, has been studied in acute lung injury. Inhalation of the vasodilators nitric oxide and prostacyclin improved oxygenation by selective dilation of the pulmonary vasculature in ventilated lung areas. In the present study, PGE1 inhalation was used for treatment of acute lung injury. Fifteen patients with acute lung injury defined as PaO2/fraction of inspired oxygen (FIO2) <160 mm Hg were treated with PGE1 inhalation in addition to standard intensive care. The drug was continuously delivered via a pneumatic nebulizer. Acute physiology and chronic health evaluation system II and multiple organ failure scores were (mean +/- SEM) 33 +/- 2 and 10 +/- 0.3, respectively. Inhaled PGE1 was administered for 103 +/- 17 h at a dose of 41 +/- 2 microg/h. The PaO2/FIO2 ratio increased from 105 +/- 9 to 160 +/- 17 mm Hg (P < 0.05) and to 189 +/- 25 mm Hg (P < 0.05) after 4 h and 24 h, respectively. PGE1 inhalation decreases in mean pulmonary artery pressure and central venous pressure were not statistically significant. Mean arterial pressure, pulmonary capillary wedge pressure, cardiac output, and heart rate remained unchanged. Intensive care unit mortality was 40%. The present data suggest that inhaled PGE1 is an effective therapeutic option for improving oxygenation in patients with acute lung injury. Whether inhaled PGE1 will increase survival in acute lung injury should be investigated in a controlled prospective trial.
Implications: In patients with severe acute lung injury and multiple organ failure, inhaled prostaglandin E1 improved oxygenation and decreased venous admixture without affecting systemic hemodynamic variables. Controlled clinical trials are warranted.