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Pulmonary hypertension increases ARDS mortality risk



– Patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and coexisting pulmonary hypertension (PH) are significantly more likely to have longer and more costly hospital stays and to die in-hospital than patients with ARDS without PH, results of a retrospective study suggest.

Among more than 156,000 hospitalized patients with ARDS, 16.8% of whom also had a diagnosis of PH, the presence of PH was associated with about a 50% higher risk for in-hospital mortality and a 37% higher risk for longer hospital stays. In addition, the presence of PH was associated with nearly $20,000 of higher hospital expenditures, reported Kaushik Kumar, MBBS, at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST).

“Clinicians should be vigilant in identifying and managing pulmonary hypertension in ARDS patients,” Dr. Kumar, a resident in internal medicine at Medstar Health, Baltimore, said in an oral abstract presentation.

He added that PH has the potential to serve as an indicator of disease severity for patients with ARDS.

National database

PH is a frequent complication of ARDS, likely related to a combination of pulmonary vasoconstriction, thromboembolism, and interstitial edema, he said.

To test their hypothesis that the presence of PH in patients with ARDS is associated with worse outcomes, Dr. Kumar and colleagues drew on the National Inpatient Sample database for information on adults aged 18 years and older who had been diagnosed with ARDS with or without PH.

They identified a total of 156,687 patients of whom 26,324 (16.8%) also had been diagnosed with PH. Among the cohort with PH, there were higher proportions of older patients, women, and patients with multiple comorbidities.

The in-hospital mortality rate was 36.8% among patients with PH, compared with 24.6% among those without. The mean length of stay was also longer among patients with PH, at 12 days versus 10 days.

In an unadjusted analysis, mean total hospital charges for patients with ARDS and PH were $210,165, versus $160,683 for patients with ARDS who did not have PH.

In an analysis in which the investigators controlled for age, sex, index admission length of stay, insurance status, and comorbidities, in-hospital mortality for patients with PH remained significantly higher, with an odds ratio of 1.52 (P < .001). PH was also significantly associated with longer length of stay (odds ratio, 1.37; P < .001) and higher total hospital costs, with a mean difference of $19,406.

Dr. Kumar said that the findings underscore the importance of a tailored approach to managing patients with ARDS, especially in the presence of PH.

The investigators plan further studies to assess the role of PH-targeted therapies, to examine the role of sepsis and right ventricular failure and to explore the long-term impact of PH among ARDS survivors, including effects with respect to pulmonary function, quality of life, and long-term morbidity.

Potential to inform practice

A pulmonologist who was not involved in the study said in an interview that the findings of the trial suggest that PH may have a greater influence on mortality than is currently understood and that further investigations into this association could change practice in the future.

“I think it would be very important for us to understand if that is going to change our outlook on how ARDS is managed. It’s possible that some of the interventions that we give people who don’t have pulmonary hypertension, for example, increasing the airway pressure in order to minimize oxygenation, may have a detrimental effect on the pulmonary vasculature,” said Timothy Morris, MD, medical director of the pulmonary and exercise lab and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego.

“I think it’s a little bit premature to say that this should guide management now, but it’s certainly an interesting question that may end up changing practice in the future,” said Dr. Morris, who was moderator of the session in which Dr. Kumar presented the data.

The study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and Medstar Health Research Institute. Dr. Kumar and Dr. Morris have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

A version of this article first appeared on

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