Pulmonary vascular resistance was measured in air, oxygen, and after administration of vasodilators in 14 children with pulmonary hypertension and congenital heart disease. Lung morphology was examined by light microscopy and assessed quantitatively. In this selected group of patients (a) medial muscle thickness of greater than 20% in the intra-acinar arteries and Heath-Edwards changes of I or II were significantly associated with perioperative death from pulmonary complications after cardiac surgery; (b) children with lower percentage medial muscle thickness had a higher baseline resistance (r = -0.84) associated with Heath-Edwards grade III or higher changes (most of these patients were not offered corrective surgery); (c) when the lowest pulmonary vascular resistance was less than 3 units, Heath-Edwards grading was I or II (n = 4). When the pulmonary vascular resistance was greater than 6 units, however, there was no direct correlation with Heath-Edwards grading (n = 9). Four patients with a resistance of greater than 6 units had only grade I or II changes. Three had a medial muscle thickness above 20%, and were among those who died at or soon after operation. It is concluded that (a) patients with a lowest pulmonary vascular resistance of greater than 6 units have a bad prognosis whatever their lung morphology; and (b) some patients with Heath-Edwards grade I or II will have a high resistance (this group has a high medial muscle mass and a poor prognosis and would not be detected by Heath-Edwards grading alone).
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