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Pulmonary hypertension leads to a loss of gravity dependent redistribution of regional lung perfusion: a SPECT/CT study


Objective Pre-capillary pulmonary hypertension (PHT) is characterised by progressive pulmonary vascular obliteration and loss of vascular reserves. In health, regional lung perfusion redistributes under the influence of gravity due to the presence of recruitable vessels. We investigated a combined single photon emission computed tomography/CT (SPECT/CT) method for assessing the pulmonary circulation by quantifying the gravity dependent redistribution of lung perfusion.

Design Characterisation of patients versus healthy controls.

Patients 15 patients with pre-capillary PHT and 11 healthy controls.

Setting University hospital clinic.

Intervention Regional lung perfusion was measured using SPECT/CT in two different postures (supine vs upright). A perfusion redistribution index (PRI) was used to quantify the cranial–caudal shift in regional lung perfusion resulting from gravitational (postural) change.

Main outcome measure PRI was compared between cases and controls, and correlated with markers of disease severity in cases.

Results Patients with pre-capillary PHT had notably reduced PRI compared to controls (0.02±0.06 vs 0.28±0.15 normalised perfusion/cm, p<0.0001). PRI was significantly associated with prognostic parameters such as 6 min walk distance (r=0.60, p=0.018), functional class (p=0.008), and tricuspid annular plane systolic excursion (r=0.58, p=0.022). The receiver operating characteristic curve showed that PRI differentiated patients with pre-capillary PHT from controls with AUC=0.94 (p<0.001).

Conclusions With SPECT/CT, gravity dependent redistribution of lung perfusion can be quantified using the PRI derived from supine and upright perfusion analysis. The potential utility of PRI for the non-invasive detection of PHT and assessment of disease severity warrants further study.

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