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Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2016 Jan;17(1):45-52. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0000000000000568.

Chronic Hypoxemia in Children With Congenital Heart Defect Impairs Airway Epithelial Sodium Transport.

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1Divisions of Pediatric Cardiology, Anesthesia and Intensive Care, Neonatology, and Cardiac and Transplantation Surgery, Children's Hospital, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland. 2Department of Radiology, Children's Hospital, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.



Ambient hypoxia impairs the airway epithelial Na transport, which is crucial in lung edema reabsorption. Whether chronic systemic hypoxemia affects airway Na transport has remained largely unknown. We have therefore investigated whether chronic systemic hypoxemia in children with congenital heart defect affects airway epithelial Na transport, Na transporter-gene expression, and short-term lung edema accumulation.


Prospective, observational study.


Tertiary care medical center responsible for nationwide pediatric cardiac surgery.


Ninety-nine children with congenital heart defect or acquired heart disease (age range, 6 d to 14.8 yr) were divided into three groups based on their level of preoperative systemic hypoxemia: 1) normoxemic patients (SpO2% ≥ 95%; n = 44), 2) patients with cyanotic congenital heart defect and moderate hypoxemia (SpO2 86-94%; n = 16), and 3) patients with cyanotic congenital heart defect and profound systemic hypoxemia (SpO2 ≤ 85%; n = 39).


Nasal transepithelial potential difference served as a surrogate measure for epithelial Na transport of the respiratory tract. Profoundly hypoxemic patients had 29% lower basal nasal transepithelial potential difference (p = 0.02) and 55% lower amiloride-sensitive nasal transepithelial potential difference (p = 0.0003) than normoxemic patients. In profoundly hypoxemic patients, nasal epithelial messenger RNA expressions of two airway Na transporters (amiloride-sensitive epithelial Na channel and β1- Na-K-ATPase) were not attenuated, but instead α1-Na-K-ATPase messenger RNA levels were higher (p = 0.03) than in the normoxemic patients, indicating that posttranscriptional factors may impair airway Na transport. The chest radiograph lung edema score increased after congenital cardiac surgery in profoundly hypoxemic patients (p = 0.0004) but not in patients with normoxemia or moderate hypoxemia.


The impaired airway epithelial amiloride-sensitive Na transport activity in profoundly hypoxemic children with cyanotic congenital heart defect may hinder defense against lung edema after cardiac surgery.

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