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Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2013 Oct;10(5):474-81. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201305-124OC.

Histologic evidence of intrapulmonary anastomoses by three-dimensional reconstruction in severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

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  • 11 Department of Pathology.



Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is the chronic lung disease of infancy that occurs in premature infants after oxygen and ventilator therapy for acute respiratory disease at birth. Despite improvement in current therapies, the clinical course of infants with BPD is often characterized by marked hypoxemia that can become refractory to therapy. Preacinar anatomic and functional communications between systemic and pulmonary vascular systems has been established in fetal lungs, but whether increased intrapulmonary anastomotic vessels or their failure to regress after birth contributes to hypoxemia in preterm infants with BPD is unknown.


We sought to find histologic evidence of intrapulmonary anastomotic vessels in lungs of patients who died of severe BPD.


We collected lung tissues from fatal BPD cases and performed histology, immunohistochemistry, and high-precision three-dimensional reconstruction techniques.


We report histologic evidence of intrapulmonary vessels that bridge pulmonary arteries and veins in the distal lungs of infants dying with severe BPD. These prominent vessels appear similar to "misaligned pulmonary veins" described in the lethal form of congenital lung disorder, alveolar capillary dysplasia.


We found striking histological evidence of precapillary arteriovenous anastomotic vessels in the lungs of infants with severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia. We propose that persistence or expansion of these vessels after premature birth provides the anatomic basis for intrapulmonary shunt and hypoxemia in neonates with severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia and may play a significant role in the morbidity and mortality of BPD.

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