Eight patients with severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia underwent cardiac catheterisation. Seven had a pulmonary vascular resistance greater than 3 mm Hg.l-1 min.m2 (mean 8.9, range 2.2-13.8). All had raised intrapulmonary shunts (mean 25.6%, range 5.4-50%, normal less than 5%). Two had a high alveolar dead space, and two had unsuspected congenital heart disease. Epoprostenol (prostacyclin), but not 100% oxygen, caused a significant fall in pulmonary vascular resistance. Death was associated with a high pulmonary vascular resistance and a high shunt. Morphometric studies in three cases showed normal numbers of airways, but increased thickness of bronchial muscle. The numbers of alveoli were reduced and the walls thickened. There was increased medial thickness in small pulmonary arteries with distal extension of muscle. In the oldest child some vessels were obliterated by fibrosis. We speculate that measurements of pulmonary vascular resistance and shunt may have prognostic value; that a trial of pulmonary vasodilators other than oxygen might be worthwhile in patients with poor prognosis; and that abnormalities of the pulmonary circulation contribute to the difficulties of managing patients with bronchopulmonary dysplasia.
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