Retrospective review of neonates with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital

  • I Harerimana
  • D.E. Ballot
  • P.A. Cooper


Background. Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) is a clinical syndrome characterised by high pulmonary pressures, low systemic pressures and severe hypoxaemia due to circulation transition failure after birth.

Objective. To determine the incidence of and describe the risk factors, infant characteristics and treatment strategies for PPHN at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital over the last 8 years.

Methods. This was a retrospective descriptive study. Patient records of neonates who had a discharge diagnosis of PPHN were reviewed for the period from January 2006 to December 2013. Neonates’ PPHN diagnosis was based on clinical criteria and, where possible, echocardiography. Neonates with a congenital cyanotic heart defect were excluded.

Results. A total of 81 neonates had a discharge diagnosis of PPHN, of whom 72 were included in the study. Of the 72 neonates, 37 (51.4%) were female, 38 (52.8%) were born by vaginal delivery and 44 (61.1%) were inborn. The mean (standard deviation (SD)) birth weight was 2.94 (0.69) kg while the mean (SD) gestational age was 38.2 (3.3) weeks. Meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) was seen in 43 neonates (59.7%) and was the most common disease underlying PPHN. Of the 72 neonates, 67 (93.1%) required mechanical ventilation, but only18.1% required high-frequency oscillatory ventilation. Magnesium sulphate and sildenafil were used in 12 (16.7%) and 9 neonates (12.5%), respectively. Inhaled nitric oxide (iNO) and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation treatments were not available. Of the 72 neonates, 25 (34.7%) died. The need for inotropic support was associated with a poor outcome (p=0.01).

Conclusion. PPHN was uncommon in our unit, but its management proved challenging owing to the high mortality risk. The leading cause of PPHN was MAS. Consideration should be given to introducing iNO, given that extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment is expensive and labour intensive and probably not justified at this time.


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eISSN: 1999-7671
print ISSN: 1994-3032