Eisenmenger's syndrome is defined as obstructive pulmonary vascular disease that develops as a consequence of a large pre-existing left-to-right shunt causing pulmonary artery pressures to increase and approach systemic levels, such that the direction of blood flow then becomes bi-directional or right-to-left.
The frequency of pulmonary hypertension and development of reversed shunting vary depending on the specific heart defect and operative interventions. Early development of Eisenmenger's syndrome is more commonly associated with persistent truncus arteriosus and unrestricted pulmonary blood flow, common atrioventricular canal, ventricular septal defect (VSD), patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) and transposition of the great arteries. The high pulmonary vascular resistance is usually established by age 2 years) and can sometimes be present from birth. It is less common and occurs later in life in patients with a large secundum atrial septal defect (ASD).
- The frequency of pulmonary hypertension and the development of reversed shunting vary depending on the specific heart defect and operative interventions.
- 50% of infants with a large, non-restrictive ventricular septal defect (VSD) or patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) develop pulmonary hypertension by early childhood.
- 10% of patients with a large secundum atrial septal defect (ASD) progress to pulmonary hypertension but usually not until after the third decade of life.
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- Dyspnoea, fatigue, syncope; exercise intolerance (dyspnoea and fatigue) is proportional to the degree of hypoxaemia or cyanosis
- Chest pain
- Examination reveals:
- Cyanosis, clubbing and plethora
- Right ventricular heave with palpable, loud pulmonary component of the second heart sound
- Loud second heart sound with a narrow split
- Ejection systolic murmur audible along the left sternal border
- Graham Steell murmur: a diastolic murmur audible along the left sternal border due to functional incompetence of the pulmonary valve in patients with pulmonary hypertension. The Graham Steell murmur is a high-pitched, decrescendo murmur, loudest during inspiration
Initial investigations include:
- Full blood count, renal function and electrolytes, uric acid, liver function tests (raised conjugated bilirubin), ferritin and clotting profile
- Pulse oximetry at rest, and occasionally with exertion (if the saturation at rest is more than 90%)
- ECG: almost always abnormal; shows features suggestive of right heart hypertrophy (with tall R wave in V1, deep S wave in V6, ST and T wave abnormalities, P pulmonale) as well as abnormalities associated with the underlying defect
- Chest X-ray: radiological features of a particular condition such as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), ventricular septal defect (VSD) but the lungs are no longer plethoric
Further investigations may include:
- MRI: to assess the defect(s) between the pulmonary and systemic circulations, to evaluate the size of the proximal pulmonary arteries, and the presence of mural or obstructive thrombi.
- Transoesophageal echocardiography (rarely) to assess defects further between the pulmonary and systemic circulations.
- Spiral/high-resolution CT chest scan in patients with haemoptysis to rule out the possibility of major pulmonary haemorrhage, especially when the chest X-ray shows pulmonary infiltrate.
- Heart catheterisation with pulmonary vasodilators primarily to determine pulmonary artery pressures and resistances.
- Open lung biopsy should only be considered when the reversibility of the pulmonary hypertension is uncertain.
Advice to patients
- Take medication only after consultation with your physician.
- Avoid dehydration.
- Avoid smoking.
- Tell the responsible cardiologist if you need non-cardiac surgery or have suffered serious illness or injury.
- Avoid excessive physical activity.
- Avoid needless high altitude exposure, especially when combined with significant physical activity.
- Flying on commercial airline flights can be safely performed with stable patients and SaO2 on room air >85%.
- Treat heart failure and arrhythmias.
- Calcium channel blockers (may increase the right-to-left shunt), antiplatelet agents and anticoagulants have not been shown to be beneficial and may cause further complications, eg hypotension, worsening cyanosis, increased hyperuricaemia or haemorrhage.
- Prevention of infective endocarditis:
- NICE recommends that if a person at risk of infective endocarditis is receiving antimicrobial therapy because they are undergoing a gastrointestinal or genitourinary procedure at a site where there is a suspected infection, the person should receive an antibiotic that covers organisms that cause infective endocarditis.
- Any episodes of infection in people at risk of infective endocarditis should be investigated and treated promptly to reduce the risk of endocarditis developing.
- Patients with significant polycythaemia may be helped by repeated venesection and volume replacement. Phlebotomies are required only when hyperviscosity of the blood is evident, usually when the haematocrit is above 65%.
- Chronic use of oxygen or pulmonary vasodilators is controversial and under investigation.
- Ultimately, heart-lung transplant may be indicated.
Pregnancy and contraception
- Pregnancy should be avoided. If it occurs, early termination is advised. If pregnancy is continued, maternal mortality approaches 50% with each pregnancy and fetal loss is similar.
- Tubal ligation is recommended for contraception. Intrauterine devices should be avoided as they may cause significant menorrhagia and increase the risk of endocarditis.
- Combined oral contraceptive pills should be avoided.
- The risk of congenital heart defects in offspring is approximately 10% but depends on the initial cardiac defect.
Apart from pregnancy, the following also carry increased risk in patients with Eisenmenger's syndrome:
- General anaesthesia
- Non-cardiac surgery and cardiac surgery
- Certain drugs, eg vasodilators, diuretics, combined oral contraceptive pills, danazol
- Anaemia (prevention of iron deficiency is important)
- Cardiac catheterisation
- Intravenous lines (risk of paradoxical air embolism and infection)
- Altitude exposure
- Lung infections
- Bleeding disorders
- Hyperuricaemia, gout, nephrolithiasis
- Polycythaemia, hyperviscosity syndrome
- Angina pectoris
- Arrhythmias (atrial fibrillation/flutter)
- Sudden death, stroke, transient ischaemic attacks
- Paradoxical emboli
- Infective endocarditis
- Pulmonary arterial aneurysm/calcification
- Brain abscess
- Progressive valvar stenosis or regurgitation
- Renal dysfunction (especially proteinuria)
- Hyperbilirubinaemia may cause gallstones
- Hypertrophic osteoarthropathy
- Most patients with Eisenmenger's syndrome survive to adulthood, with a reported 77% and 42% survival rate at 15 and 25 years of age.
- The most common causes of death are sudden death, congestive heart failure and haemoptysis.
- Pregnancy, perioperative mortality following non-cardiac surgery, and infectious causes (brain abscesses and endocarditis) account for most of the other deaths.
- Reduced systemic blood flow and elevated right atrial pressure are associated with high mortality rates in adults with Eisenmenger's syndrome.
Further reading & references
- El-Chami MF; Eisenmenger Syndrome; eMedicine, June 2008.
- Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust; Eisenmenger Sydrome.
- Berman EB, Barst RJ; Eisenmenger's syndrome: current management.; Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2002 Sep-Oct;45(2):129-38.
- Galie N, Manes A, Palazzini M, et al; Management of pulmonary arterial hypertension associated with congenital Drugs. 2008;68(8):1049-66.
- Waddell TK, Bennett L, Kennedy R, et al; Heart-lung or lung transplantation for Eisenmenger syndrome.; J Heart Lung Transplant. 2002 Jul;21(7):731-7.
- Oya H, Nagaya N, Uematsu M, et al; Poor prognosis and related factors in adults with Eisenmenger syndrome.; Am Heart J. 2002 Apr;143(4):739-44.
|Original Author: Dr Colin Tidy||Current Version: Dr Colin Tidy|
|Last Checked: 19/02/2010||Document ID: 867 Version: 23||© EMIS|
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