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Pulmonary vascular resistance of children treated with nitrogen during early infancy.

BACKGROUND: We have empirically used supplemental nitrogen in newborns with a functional single ventricle and ductal-dependent systemic perfusion to prevent pulmonary vasodilation and deliver a greater proportion of flow to the systemic circulation. Thus, we reviewed patient outcome to determine whether adverse pulmonary vascular effects may be associated with this therapy.

METHODS: From December 1991 to December 1995, the fraction of inspired oxygen was adjusted, with supplemental nitrogen if necessary, to maintain an oxygen saturation near 75% in 20 newborns awaiting heart transplantation. Medical records were reviewed to evaluate (1) the duration of nitrogen therapy, (2) pulmonary vascular histology, (3) postoperative pulmonary hemodynamics, and (4) survival.

RESULTS: Thirteen patients underwent heart transplantation, 4 patients died without surgical intervention, and 3 patients underwent late aortic reconstruction. Supplemental nitrogen was used without exceeding a fraction of inspired oxygen of 0.21 for 38 +/- 6 days. One patient had evidence of changes of potentially irreversible pulmonary vascular disease. Pulmonary vascular resistance was not increased long-term in surviving patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Supplemental nitrogen can be used to maintain a systemic oxygen saturation near 75% for an extended period in newborns with ductal-dependent systemic perfusion with no long-term adverse effect on pulmonary vascular resistance.

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