Combined burn and smoke inhalation injury impairs ovine hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction*

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To examine the effects of combined burn and smoke inhalation injury on hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction, 3-nitrotyrosine formation, and respiratory function in adult sheep.


Prospective, placebo-controlled, randomized, single-blinded trial.


University research laboratory.


Twelve chronically instrumented ewes.


Following a baseline measurement, sheep were randomly allocated to either healthy controls (sham) or the injury group, subjected to a 40%, third-degree body surface area burn and 48 breaths of cotton smoke according to an established protocol (n = 6 each). Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction was assessed as changes in pulmonary arterial blood flow (corrected for changes in cardiac index) in response to left lung hypoxic challenges performed at baseline and at 24 and 48 hrs postinjury.

Measurements and Main Results:

Combined burn and smoke inhalation was associated with increased expression of inducible nitric oxide (NO) synthase, elevated NO2/NO3 (NOx) plasma levels (12 hrs, sham, 6.2 ± 0.6; injury, 16 ± 1.6 μmol·L−1; p < .01) and increased peroxynitrite formation, as indicated by augmented lung tissue 3-nitrotyrosine content (30 ± 3 vs. 216 ± 8 nM; p < .001). These biochemical changes occurred in parallel with pulmonary shunting, progressive decreases in Pao2/Fio2 ratio, and a loss of hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (48 hrs, −90.5% vs. baseline; p < .001). Histopathology revealed pulmonary edema and airway obstruction as the morphologic correlates of the deterioration in gas exchange and the increases in airway pressures.


This study provides evidence for a severe impairment of hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction following combined burn and smoke inhalation injury. In addition to airway obstruction, the loss of hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction may help to explain why blood gases are within physiologic ranges for a certain time postinjury and then suddenly deteriorate.

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