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Right-to-left shunt with hypoxemia in pulmonary hypertension

Jean-Frédéric Vodoz1, Vincent Cottin125*, Jean-Charles Glérant3, Geneviève Derumeaux24, Chahéra Khouatra1, Anne-Sophie Blanchet12, Bénédicte Mastroïanni1, Jean-Yves Bayle3, Jean-François Mornex125 and Jean-François Cordier125

Author Affiliations

1 Service de pneumologie et centre de référence des maladies orphelines pulmonaires, Hôpital Louis Pradel, Hospices Civils de Lyon, Lyon, France

2 Université Lyon I, Université de Lyon, Lyon, France

3 Laboratoire d'exploration fonctionnelle respiratoire, Hôpital Louis Pradel, Hospices Civils de Lyon, Lyon, France

4 Laboratoire d'échocardiographie, Hôpital Louis Pradel, Hospices Civils de Lyon, Lyon, France

5 UMR754 RPC, Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire de Lyon, Ecole pratique des hautes études, IFR128, INRA, Lyon, France

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BMC Cardiovascular Disorders 2009, 9:15  doi:10.1186/1471-2261-9-15

Published: 31 March 2009



Hypoxemia is common in pulmonary hypertension (PH) and may be partly related to ventilation/perfusion mismatch, low diffusion capacity, low cardiac output, and/or right-to-left (RL) shunting.


To determine whether true RL shunting causing hypoxemia is caused by intracardiac shunting, as classically considered, a retrospective single center study was conducted in consecutive patients with precapillary PH, with hypoxemia at rest (PaO2 < 10 kPa), shunt fraction (Qs/Qt) greater than 5%, elevated alveolar-arterial difference of PO2 (AaPO2), and with transthoracic contrast echocardiography performed within 3 months.


Among 263 patients with precapillary PH, 34 patients were included: pulmonary arterial hypertension, 21%; PH associated with lung disease, 47% (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 23%; interstitial lung disease, 9%; other, 15%); chronic thromboembolic PH, 26%; miscellaneous causes, 6%. Mean pulmonary artery pressure, cardiac index, and pulmonary vascular resistance were 45.8 ± 10.8 mmHg, 2.2 ± 0.6 L/min/m2, and 469 ± 275, respectively. PaO2 in room air was 6.8 ± 1.3 kPa. Qs/Qt was 10.2 ± 4.2%. AaPO2 under 100% oxygen was 32.5 ± 12.4 kPa. Positive contrast was present at transthoracic contrast echocardiography in 6/34 (18%) of patients, including only 4/34 (12%) with intracardiac RL shunting. Qs/Qt did not correlate with hemodynamic parameters. Patients' characteristics did not differ according to the result of contrast echocardiography.


When present in patients with precapillary PH, RL shunting is usually not related to reopening of patent foramen ovale, whatever the etiology of PH.