Background - The management of sick newborn infants who have sustained a hypoxic insult is a common clinical problem but relatively little is known about the recovery process. The aim of this study was to investigate this process in newborn piglets. Methods - Thirty five newborn piglets were exposed to chronic hypobaric hypoxia for three days, either from birth, three or 14 days of age, and were allowed to recover for one, three, or six days. Control animals of relevant age were also studied. The heart weight ratio and pulmonary arterial muscularity were measured. Endothelial dependent and independent relaxation of the isolated intrapulmonary conduit arteries was determined in classical organ chamber studies, together with measurement of basal and stimulated cGMP accumulation. Results - After six days of recovery the hypoxia induced right ventricular hypertrophy and pulmonary arterial medial hypertrophy had decreased in all animals but values were still abnormal in the two younger age groups. Relaxation was still impaired during the first three days of recovery in all groups, had normalised by six days in the two youngest groups, but relaxation (both endothelium dependent and independent) remained impaired in older animals. In these older animals basal nitric oxide (NO) production and basal and stimulated cGMP accumulation was normal. Conclusions - The recovery of the smooth muscle cells lags behind that of the endothelial cells. A normal stimulated increase in cGMP with reduced relaxation suggests an altered threshold for cGMP effected relaxation. These findings help to explain why some hypoxic infants require protracted NO therapy.
- Nitric oxide
- Porcine pulmonary hypertension
- Smooth muscle cells