Two cases of fatal idiopathic persistent pulmonary hypertension presented late in the neonatal period. Lungs were examined histologically by light and electron microscopy, and immunocytochemical studies were used to identify nerves. There was extension of medial smooth muscle distally along the arterial pathway so that most precapillary arteries had completely muscular walls, which in some cases completely obliterated the vessel lumen. Enlarged endothelial cells also contributed to the reduction in the size of the lumen. Nerve fibres accompanying muscular arteries were found in the alveolar region, more distal than is normal. The predominant neuropeptide was the vasoconstrictor tyrosine. Possible aetiological factors in persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn are increased muscularity of the peripheral pulmonary arteries antenatally, an increase in the number of vasoconstrictor nerves, or an imbalance in the production of leukotrienes and prostacyclins in the perinatal period.
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