Right ventricular failure (RVF) is a leading driver of morbidity and mortality after major cardiac surgery for advanced heart failure, including orthotopic heart transplantation and left ventricular assist device implantation. Inhaled pulmonary-selective vasodilators, such as inhaled epoprostenol (iEPO) and nitric oxide (iNO), are essential therapeutics for the prevention and medical management of postoperative RVF. However, there is limited evidence from clinical trials to guide agent selection despite the significant cost considerations of iNO therapy.
In this double-blind trial, participants were stratified by assigned surgery and key preoperative prognostic features, then randomized to continuously receive either iEPO or iNO beginning at the time of separation from cardiopulmonary bypass with the continuation of treatment into the intensive care unit stay. The primary outcome was the composite RVF rate after both operations, defined after transplantation by the initiation of mechanical circulatory support for isolated RVF, and defined after left ventricular assist device implantation by moderate or severe right heart failure according to criteria from the Interagency Registry for Mechanically Assisted Circulatory Support. An equivalence margin of 15 percentage points was prespecified for between-group RVF risk difference. Secondary postoperative outcomes were assessed for treatment differences and included: mechanical ventilation duration; hospital and intensive care unit length of stay during the index hospitalization; acute kidney injury development including renal replacement therapy initiation; and mortality at 30 days, 90 days, and 1 year after surgery.
Of 231 randomized participants who met eligibility at the time of surgery, 120 received iEPO, and 111 received iNO. Primary outcome occurred in 30 participants (25.0%) in the iEPO group and 25 participants (22.5%) in the iNO group, for a risk difference of 2.5 percentage points (two one-sided test 90% CI, –6.6% to 11.6%) in support of equivalence. There were no significant between-group differences for any of the measured postoperative secondary outcomes.
Among patients undergoing major cardiac surgery for advanced heart failure, inhaled pulmonary-selective vasodilator treatment using iEPO was associated with similar risks for RVF development and development of other postoperative secondary outcomes compared with treatment using iNO.