Some newborn infants with either primary or secondary persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) remain hypoxemic, hypercarbic, and acidotic despite therapeutic efforts. In autopsies of 23 infants who had PPHN, diffuse platelet-fibrin thrombi were present in the pulmonary microcirculation of eight (15.2±18.1 thrombi/cm2 lung tissue) and absent in 15 (0.2±0.3 thrombi/cm2 lung tissue), (P<0.004). Diagnoses in group A (thrombi) were pneumonia and sepsis (four patients), meconium inhalation (3), and primary PPHN (1); and in group B (no thrombi) pneumonia and sepsis (4), meconium inhalation (4), primary PPHN (4), hyaline membrane disease (2), and diaphragmatic hernia (1). The only significant differences between the two groups were the response to tolazoline infusion as assessed by changes in partial pressure of arterial oxygen (PaO2) and the platelet counts. Group A responded less favorably to tolazoline (14.8 mm Hg vs 83.6 mm Hg; P<0.05) and had lower platelet counts (51,000/μl vs 128,000/μl) (P<0.01) than group B. No significant differences could be detected in Apgar scores, duration or mode of mechanical ventilation, oxygen requirements, arterial blood gas tensions or pH, systemic arterial blood pressure, coagulation profile, amount of blood product transfusions, or intravascular catheter use. Pulmonary microthrombi should be added to the list of mechanisms for PPHN and may explain why some infants do not respond well to therapeutic efforts aimed at vasodilation. Thrombocytopenia and failure to respond to pulmonary vasodilators might suggest the diagnosis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health