Survival in primary pulmonary hypertension with long-term continuous intravenous prostacyclin

R J Barst, L J Rubin, M D McGoon, E J Caldwell, W A Long, P S Levy
Annals of Internal Medicine 1994 September 15, 121 (6): 409-15

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effects of long-term-intravenous infusion of prostacyclin on exercise capacity, hemodynamics, and survival in patients with primary pulmonary hypertension.

DESIGN: Open, multicenter, uncontrolled trial.

SETTING: Four referral centers.

PATIENTS: 18 patients with primary pulmonary hypertension: 1 New York Heart Association (NYHA) class II patient, 13 NYHA class III patients, and 4 NYHA class IV patients.

INTERVENTIONS: Continuous intravenous prostacyclin administered by portable infusion pumps. All patients were treated with anticoagulant agents.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: With the 6-minute walk used to evaluate exercise capacity, patients could walk on average more than 100 meters farther after prostacyclin therapy was initiated (distance at 6 months, 370 +/- 119 meters compared with 264 +/- 160 meters at baseline; P < 0.001; distance at 18 months, 408 +/- 138 meters; P = 0.02 compared with baseline). Hemodynamics were improved at 6 months: The cardiac index increased 18% (95% CI, 0.1% to 36.7%; P = 0.02), and mean pulmonary artery pressure and total pulmonary resistance decreased 9% (CI, 1.4% to 15.7%; P = 0.03) and 26% (CI, 6.1% to 46.3%; P = 0.02), respectively, compared with baseline. The improvements in cardiac index and total pulmonary resistance were maintained at 12 months (27% increase [CI, 1.3% to 51.9%; P = 0.05] and 32% decrease [CI, 9.7% to 53.6%; P = 0.02] compared with baseline, respectively). Survival was improved in NYHA class III and IV patients who received continuous prostacyclin (n = 17; follow-up, 37 to 69 months) when compared with historical controls who received standard therapy (National Institutes of Health Primary Pulmonary Hypertension Registry, n = 31, P = 0.045). Kaplan-Meier estimates of 1-, 2-, and 3-year survival rates for the patients treated with prostacyclin were 86.9%, 72.4%, and 63.3%, respectively, compared with 77.4%, 51.6%, and 40.6% for the historical control group (hazard ratio, 2.9 [CI, 1.0 to 8.0; P = 0.045]). Serious complications attributable to the drug and delivery system included two deaths and seven episodes of nonfatal sepsis in three patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Continuous intravenous prostacyclin resulted in sustained clinical and hemodynamic improvement and probably in improved survival in patients with severe primary pulmonary hypertension. Despite potentially serious complications, long-term prostacyclin may be especially helpful in seriously ill patients awaiting transplantation.

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