Eleven newborns admitted consecutively to the neonatal unit with respiratory failure and severe persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) were included in a clinical trial to assess the efficacy of magnesium sulphate (MgSO4) in the treatment of PPHN. A loading dose of 200 mg/kg MgSO4 was given over 20 minutes, followed by a continuous infusion of 20-150 mg/kg/hour to obtain a magnesium blood concentration between 3.5 and 5.5 mmol/l. Mean (SD) duration of treatment was 75.5 (19.8) hours. No other vasodilatory drug was administered before or during the treatment and patients were not hyperventilated. Mean (SEM) PaO2 values significantly increased from 42.6 (8.8) before treatment to 70.3 (24.1) mm Hg after 24 hours, with no change in pH or PCO2. Oxygen index and alveolar-arterial oxygen gradient (A-aDO2) were significantly lower after 24 hours; respectively, 46.8 (15.2) to 28.0 (9.0) and 624.3 (11.3) to 590 (58) mm Hg. Mean airway pressure could be significantly reduced from 19.5 (3.1) to 13.9 (3.9) cm H2O after 72 hours. Mean ventilatory time support was 131 hours and mean total oxygen dependency 10 days. No systemic hypotension nor any other adverse effect were noted. All infants survived and the neurodevelopmental assessment was normal at 6 and 12 months of age. It is concluded that magnesium sulphate is a non-aggressive and low-cost treatment of short duration which is easy to apply. It may have a role in the various treatment of PPHN.
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