Optimal oxygenation and role of free radicals in PPHN

Stephen Wedgwood, Robin H Steinhorn, Satyanarayana Lakshminrusimha

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Effective ventilation of the lungs is essential in mediating pulmonary vasodilation at birth to allow effective gas exchange and an increase in systemic oxygenation. Unsuccessful transition prevents the increase in pulmonary blood flow after birth resulting in hypoxemia and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). Management of neonates with PPHN includes ventilation of the lungs with supplemental oxygen to correct hypoxemia. Optimal oxygenation should meet oxygen demand to the tissues and avoid hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (HPV) while preventing oxidative stress. The optimal target for oxygenation in PPHN is not known. Animal models have demonstrated that PaO 2 <45 mmHg exacerbates HPV. However, there are no practical methods of assessing oxygen levels associated with oxidant stress. Oxidant stress can be due to free radical generation from underlying lung disease or from free radicals generated by supplemental oxygen. Free radicals act on the nitric oxide pathway reducing cGMP and promoting pulmonary vasoconstriction. Antioxidant therapy improves systemic oxygenation in an animal model of PPHN but there are no clinical trials to support such therapy. Targeting preductal SpO 2 between 90 and 97% and PaO 2 at 50–80 mmHg appears prudent in PPHN but clinical trials to support this practice are lacking. Preterm infants with PPHN present unique challenges due to lack of antioxidant defenses and functional and structural immaturity of the lungs. This review highlights the need for additional studies to mitigate the impact of oxidative stress in the lung and pulmonary vasculature in PPHN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology (medical)


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