New standards, approaches and recommendations for diagnosing, treating and conducting research on pulmonary hypertension in infants and children were recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The journal devoted an entire issue to findings of the 5th World Symposium on Pulmonary Hypertension (WSPH), held in Nice, France, in 2013. Robin Steinhorn, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Pediatrics, was one of only two neonatologists worldwide invited to participate.
"For the first time, the World Symposium on Pulmonary Hypertension included a task force focused on pediatrics," said Steinhorn, who co-authored an article titled "Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension." "The addition of a pediatric task force not only underscores the fundamental differences between adult and pediatric pulmonary hypertension, but it provides practitioners with guidance to better cope with this challenging and increasingly recognized condition."
Pulmonary hypertension can occur at any age but is often seen in newborns who are born with heart or circulation defects, certain genetic diseases, drug exposures or infections. It involves high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs (the pulmonary arteries), which reduces blood flow to the lungs. Affected newborns may have a bluish color and low oxygen levels.
The first WSPH was organized by the World Health Organization and took place in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1973. The symposium now takes place every five years at various sites throughout the world. Twelve task forces set standards in the field of pulmonary hypertension by refining the classification of the disease based on the latest scientific evidence, and making recommendations on diagnostic and treatment algorithms and research priorities. According to Steinhorn, such standardization is critical to ensuring uniformity so that comparisons can be made worldwide.
"Being involved in the Nice symposium was a fantastic highlight of my career," said Steinhorn. "It was an honor to help develop the guidelines that will set the standard in pediatric pulmonary hypertension for the next five years."
Steinhorn, who is the medical director of UC Davis Children’s Hospital, is an internationally recognized expert and thought leader in pediatric pulmonary hypertension. Her research has contributed to a better understanding of the basic mechanisms regulating a newborn’s circulatory system and factors that contribute to pulmonary hypertension before or soon after birth. Steinhorn is currently conducting basic research into the condition as well as a number of clinical trials that will help determine the efficacy of various novel treatments for the treatment of pediatric pulmonary hypertension.
Other authors of the article are Dunbar Ivy and Steven Abman of the University of Colorado School of Medicine; Robyn Barst and Erika Rosenzweig of Columbia University in New York; Rolf Berger of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands; Damien Bonnet of the University Paris Descartes in France; Thomas Fleming of the University of Washington; Sheila Haworth and Ingram Schulze Neick of the United Kingdom's Great Ormond Street Hospital in London; Usha Raj of the University of Illinois; and Maurice Beghetti of Switzerland's University Hospital in Geneva.