Fluid challenge may help in the differential diagnosis between pre- and postcapillary pulmonary hypertension (PH). However, the test is still in need of standardization and better defined clinical relevance.
Two hundred twelve patients referred for PH underwent a right-sided heart catheterization with measurements before and after rapid infusion of 7 mL/kg of saline. PH was defined as mean pulmonary artery pressure ≥ 25 mm Hg, and postcapillary PH was defined as pulmonary artery wedge pressure (PAWP) > 15 mm Hg. An increase in PAWP ≥ 18 mm Hg was considered diagnostic for postcapillary PH. At baseline, 66 patients received a diagnosis of no PH; 22, of postcapillary PH; and 124, of precapillary PH (mostly pulmonary arterial hypertension).
After fluid challenge, five of 66 patients with no PH (8%) and eight of 124 with precapillary PH (6%) had the diagnosis reclassified as postcapillary PH. Fluid challenge was associated with an increase in PAWP by 7 ± 2 mm Hg in postcapillary PH and 3 ± 1 mm Hg in both precapillary PH and no-PH groups. Between-group differences were significant, but there was overlap. There were no adverse events related to fluid challenge. Prediction bands calculated from quadratic fits of the PAWP responses in pooled control subjects with no PH and patients with precapillary PH helped confirm 18 mm Hg as the cutoff for diagnosing postcapillary PH.
Fluid challenge with 7 mL/kg saline increases PAWP, more in postcapillary than in precapillary PH or in control subjects with no PH. A cutoff value of 18 mm Hg allows reclassification of 6% to 8% of patients with precapillary PH or normal hemodynamic characteristics at baseline.