Improvement in pulmonary hemodynamics during intravenous epoprostenol (prostacyclin): A study of 15 patients with moderate to severe portopulmonary hypertension

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Abstract

Pulmonary hypertension associated with increased pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR) and occurring in the setting of portal hypertension is referred to as “portopulmonary hypertension.” Intravenous epoprostenol (prostacyclin) is a potent pulmonary and systemic vasodilator with antithrombotic properties. It can decrease PVR and pulmonary artery pressure in patients with primary (idiopathic) pulmonary hypertension. Using right-heart catheterization, we evaluated the acute pulmonary hemodynamic effects of intravenous epoprostenol in patients with moderate to severe pulmonary hypertension (mean pulmonary artery pressure [MPAP] ≥35 mm Hg) associated with clinical manifestations of portal hypertension. Effects of long-term infusion of epoprostenol were also evaluated. We studied 15 consecutive patients with portopulmonary hypertension; 14 underwent acute administration of epoprostenol, and no significant side effects were noted. Ten patients received continuous epoprostenol (range, 8 days-30 months). Acute changes in PVR (−34% ± 18%), MPAP (−16% ± 10%), and cardiac output (CO) (+21 ± 18%), were statistically significant (P < .01). Long-term use of epoprostenol further lowered PVR (−47% ± 12% from baseline and −31% ± 22% from the acute change; P < .05) in the 6 patients restudied by right-heart catheterization. Death occurred in 6 of 10 (60%) of those receiving long-term epoprostenol. In moderate to severe portopulmonary hypertension, intravenous epoprostenol resulted in a significant improvement (both acute and long-term) in PVR, MPAP, and CO. Potential adverse effects on portal hypertension and implications for orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT), however, require further study.

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