Article

Pulmonary arterial hypertension: new insights into the optimal role of current and emerging prostacyclin therapies.

Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Pulmonary Vascular Disease Program, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. Electronic address: .
The American journal of cardiology (Impact Factor: 3.58). 03/2013; 111(5 Suppl):1A-16A. DOI: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2012.12.002
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), which is a subset of pulmonary hypertension, is a group of diseases distinguished by vascular remodeling of the small pulmonary arteries with associated elevated pulmonary arterial pressure and right ventricular failure. This progressive and sometimes fatal disease occurs as an idiopathic disease or as a component of other disease states. Estimates of the incidence of PAH have varied from 5 to 52 cases/1 million population. Symptoms begin with shortness of breath with exertion and progress to dyspnea with normal activities and, finally, dyspnea at rest. Untreated patients with PAH have a 1-, 3-, and 5-year survival rate of 68%, 48%, and 34%, respectively. Treated, the survival rates improve to 91% to 97% after 1 year and 84% to 91% after 2 years. The current definition of PAH consists of 3 specific hemodynamic assessments confirmed by right heart catheterization findings. One of several important pathophysiologic mechanisms involved in PAH is pulmonary vascular remodeling, which is caused by endothelial and smooth muscle cell hyperproliferation. This is coincident with overexpression of the vasoconstrictor endothelin-1 and a reduction in the vasodilators nitric oxide and prostacyclin, which further impedes proper vasomotor tone, among other effects. Prostacyclin therapies augment the decreased prostacyclin levels in patients with PAH. The currently approved prostacyclins for the treatment of PAH include epoprostenol, iloprost, and treprostinil. Among the 3 medications, the delivery options include intravenous infusion, subcutaneous infusion, and inhaled formulations. Epoprostenol has been shown to have a positive effect on survival in patients with PAH. All prostacyclins have demonstrated improvements in functional class, exercise tolerance, and hemodynamics in patients with PAH. Intravenously and subcutaneously administered formulations of prostacyclins require continuous infusion pump administration, which presents clinical challenges for both the patient and the care provider. Dosing must be individualized and also presents a clinical challenge. Inhaled formulations seem efficacious in moderately symptomatic patients with PAH and might be appropriate when combined with an oral medication. Combination therapies are commonly used in clinical practice, with the decision to do so based on randomized controlled trial data and case study evidence. The present report provides an overview of PAH, the scientific rationale for treatment with prostacyclin therapy, and the benefits and risks of prostacyclin therapy, both as monotherapy and combined with other medications approved for the treatment of PAH.

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