Posts Tagged ‘eisenmenger’

When I asked this seemingly simple  question to my cardiology fellows , I found they struggled  to come out with a proper  answer .I hope this will  make the  issue simpler .

Why the onset of PAH in VSD is early and late in ASD ?

Though number of factors are involved in the genesis of PAH , the single important reason  is  behavior of pulmonary circulation  especially the pulmonary arteriolar muscle .

Normal pulmonary vasculature losses it’s muscle rapidly after  birth and the pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR) falls to the adult level by 6 months .(Bulk of the fall occur in first 60 days) This is the same time the RV dominance is lost and RVH regresses . This also coincides with peaking of  left to right  shunting peaks and may result in cardiac failure .

Though  both ASD and VSD shunts are  highly dependent on PVR ,   VSD  shunting has more muscle power namely the LV contractility  , hence  VSD shunt is established  much earlier   than ASD . This can be ascertained in bedside as  VSD murmurs are heard even within 30 days while ASD is silent for many moths or even years . (Does not apply for Primum defects)

ASD  shunt rarely  meddles   lung  maturation process .(Maturation here means loss of  pulmonary arterioloar smooth  muscle -also  called as Involution  )  This vital  initial period lasts up to 6 months of life .VSD  interferes with this  involution of pulmonary arteriolar smooth muscle .( Please note near complete  involution still can occur in small VSDs with very little shunting )

In large VSD the PVR  will never ,  ever fall to normal levels  and   making it easier for  progressive vascular changes  that occur in  untreated large VSDs that  lead to Eisenmenger syndrome

*Please note  ASD can also reach that stage but it takes many years as the pulmonary vascular resistance has to raise from  very low levels which was made possible by complete involution of pulmonary vasculature .

It is obvious   AP window , PDA  express more  powerful left to right shunts which are associated with very high PVRs .

Final message

A simplified version of answer

Version 1

In VSD  the onset  of left to right  shunt occurs early even within 3 months of life  since VSD shunt is augmented by LV contraction . This is the crucial time of lung  vascular maturation   which gets interfered with  .ASD shunt is  established only after the pulmonary vasculature  involutes .This explains early onset of PAH in VSD  and late in ASD .

Version 2

ASD shunting is primarily depend on RV compliance which is high in early infancy so it takes time to establish the shunt .while VSD shunting does not  depend upon this RV regression.

* Please note  regression of  RV  dominance and compliance is directly dependent on maturation of lung.

** Note these  explanations are not absolute .Some of the complex forms of ASD and intrinsic vascular injury of pulmonary circulation (Various  fetal distress )  can progress into accelerated pulmonary arterial hypertension


  1. Excellent discusions are available in old edition of Moss and Adams
  2. Rabinovitch has done pioneering work on this topic .
  3. Robert Roberts text book of Adult congenital heart disease also explains it succinctly

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                                  Even as cardiology community is preoccupied with systemic hypertension & CAD  ,  pulmonary arterial hypertension(PAH) is a much neglected , still  an important clinical cardiac problem encountered . The irony is self evident , there are half a dozen methods to grade systemic hypertension not even a single stadardised grading available for pulmonary arterial hypertension. The WHO  working group defined pulmonary hypertension  few decades ago and was not clinically graded .The only grading available is based on  the pulmonary vascular biopsy changes (Heath Edwards) 

                                   Currently PAH management has gone through revolutionary changes. There is an urgent  need for grading  this entity .This will facilitate to  diagnose , manage and assess the efficacy of the currently available treatment.

                                Developing countries like ours have a great number of PAH due to rampant rheumatic heart disease.  A simple study was done in  100 patients with PAH .Bulk of the study population had RHD .Few had primary pulmonary  hypertension .Systolic , diastolic, and mean pressure was assessed by doppler echocardiographic analysis of tricuspid regurgitation (TR) and pulmonary regurgitaion(PR) jets. TR jet provided the systolic PA pressure , PR jet provided mean as well as diastolic PA pressure .TR jet was available in all patients. PR jet was available only in 60 patients .Hence the diastolic andmean PA pressure data has been extrapolated in some  and  was plotted in a scatter diagram. Five equal quintiles were divided. Patients in first  and 2nd quintiles were graded 1   and third  and 4th  quintile were  graded 2 ,  5 th  was graded 3 respectively. From this cut off points for  various grades of PAH were identified .The top 3% of patients  with highest PAP were graded as grade 4 and all of them had supra systemic PAH. 

The following grading is suggested for PAH* 

 *This is a preliminary  attempt to grade PAH. This could be applicable mainly in rheumatic heart disese and primary pulmonary hypertension .Further refining of methodology is  required.PAH grading may be little different in congenital left to right shunts.

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