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Assessment of reversibility in pulmonary arterial hypertension and congenital heart disease
  1. Diederik E van der Feen1,
  2. Beatrijs Bartelds1,2,
  3. Rudolf A de Boer3,
  4. Rolf M F Berger1
  1. 1 Center for Congenital Heart Diseases, Department of Pediatric Cardiology, Beatrix Children’s Hospital, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
  2. 2 Division of Cardiology, Department of Pediatrics, Erasmus Medical Center—Sophia Children’s Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  3. 3 Department of Cardiology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Diederik E van der Feen, Center for Congenital Heart Diseases, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen GZ 9713, The Netherlands; d.e.van.der.feen01{at}


Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) in congenital heart disease (CHD) can be reversed by early shunt closure, but this potential is lost beyond a certain point of no return. Therefore, it is crucial to accurately assess the reversibility of this progressive pulmonary arteriopathy in an early stage. Reversibility assessment is currently based on a combination of clinical symptoms and haemodynamic variables such as pulmonary vascular resistance. These measures, however, are of limited predictive value and leave many patients in the grey zone. This review provides a concise overview of the mechanisms involved in flow-dependent progression of PAH in CHD and evaluates existing and future alternatives to more directly investigate the stage of the pulmonary arteriopathy. Structural quantification of the pulmonary arterial tree using fractal branching algorithms, functional imaging with intravascular ultrasound, nuclear imaging, putative new blood biomarkers, genetic testing and the potential for transcriptomic analysis of circulating endothelial cells and educated platelets are being reviewed.

  • translational cardiovascular science
  • vascular biology
  • pulmonary vascular disease
  • congenital heart disease
  • cardiac imaging and diagnostics

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  • Contributors DEvdF has drafted the manuscript. RMFB, RAdB and BB have revised the manuscript. RMFB gave final approval of the version published.

  • Funding This work was supported by the Netherlands CardioVascular Research Initiative: the Dutch Heart Foundation, Dutch Federation of University Medical Centres, the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (CVON-Phaedra 2012-08). BB and RMFB are also supported by the Dutch Heart Foundation (NHS2013-T091, Cobra3). There are no relevant disclosures.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.