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Am Heart J. 1988 Jul;116(1 Pt 1):128-32.

Erythropoietin in cyanotic heart disease.

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Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago, IL 60614.


We hypothesized that children with cyanotic congenital heart disease and moderate hypoxemia, as a result of erythrocytosis, and adequate iron stores would have low serum erythropoietin titers, low tissue oxygen delivery, and normal red cell 2,3-diphosphoglycerate (DPG) concentrations. We assessed hemoglobin levels, aortic oxygen saturation, iron stores, red cell 2,3-DPG, oxygen consumption, and systemic O2 transport in 19 hypoxemic patients, aged 3 months to 8 years. Low erythropoietin titers (less than 30 mU/dl) were found in 14 patients. Patients with high erythropoietin titers had lower Pao2 (36 +/- 7 vs 49 +/- 7 mm Hg, p less than 0.01), lower aortic saturation (68 +/- 12 vs 81 +/- 9%, p less than 0.01), and higher red cell 2,3-DPG (2.47 +/- 0.34 vs 3.23 +/- 0.73 mumol/ml, p less than 0.01). Aortic oxygen saturation higher than 80% was associated with a low erythropoietin titer and a hemoglobin level below that associated with hyperviscosity. The relationship between aortic oxygen saturation and hemoglobin concentration was strong (r = 0.77). These data suggest that for children less than 8 years of age, adequate compensation for moderate hypoxemia can occur with moderate increases in hemoglobin levels.

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