Respiratory failure complicates up to 2% of live births and contributes significantly to neonatal morbidity and mortality. Under these conditions, supplemental oxygen is required to support oxygen delivery to the brain and other organs, and to prevent hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction. However, therapeutic oxygen is also a source of reactive oxygen species that produce oxidative stress, along with multiple intracellular systems that contribute to the production of free radicals in pulmonary endothelium and vascular smooth muscle. These free radicals cause vasoconstriction, act on multiple sites of the nitric oxide pathway to reduce cGMP-mediated vasodilation, and nitrate and inactivate essential proteins such as surfactant. In addition to oxygen, antenatal stressors such as placental insufficiency, maternal diabetes, and fetal growth restriction increase pulmonary and vascular oxidant stress and may amplify the adverse effects of oxygen. Moreover, the effects of free radical damage may extend well beyond infancy as suggested by the increased risk of childhood malignancy after neonatal exposure to hyperoxia. Antioxidant therapy is theoretically promising, but there are not yet clinical trials to support this approach. Targeting the abnormal sources of increased oxidant stress that trigger abnormal pulmonary vascular responses may be more effective in treating disease and preventing long term consequences.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health