From the Journals

Pulmonary hypertension treatment gets under the skin


Key clinical point: An implantable drug delivery system was successfully placed in 100% of adult PAH patients with no serious complications.

Major finding: The most common complaints among patients who received an implant system to deliver treprostinil were implant site pain (83%) and bruising (17%).

Data source: A multicenter, prospective study of 60 adults with pulmonary arterial hypertension who received implantable pumps to deliver treprostinil.

Disclosures: Medtronic sponsored the study. The lead author, Dr. Waxman, had no financial conflicts to disclose; several coauthors reported relationships with companies including Medtronic, Actelion, Bayer, Gilead, Merck, and United Therapeutics.

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Implant may improve quality of life for stable PAH patients

The development of an implantable therapy for pulmonary hypertension could expand the use of treprostinil, a demonstrated effective treatment for PAH that has been limited in its use because of a range of side effects when given intravenously, orally, subcutaneously, or by inhalation, Joel A. Wirth, MD, FCCP, and Harold I. Palevsky, MD, FCCP, wrote in an editorial.

The use of an intravenous pump and catheter infusion system for stable PAH patients could help them return more quickly to normal activities and curb the risk of catheter-related infections, they said. “Having the potential to remove some of the burden and risk incumbent with an external delivery system may reduce several of the overall barriers to continuous intravenous prostanoid acceptance by both patients and providers,” they noted (Chest. 2017 Dec 6. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2017.07.006).

Clinicians must be educated to perform the implant procedure itself, and care centers must be trained in identifying patient management issues and refilling the pump reservoir as needed, Dr. Wirth and Dr. Palevsky emphasized. Patients must be educated in what to expect, including how to monitor the pump and track the need for refills, they said. Although the pump is not appropriate for patients with severe PAH, “a planned staged approach of transitioning PAH patients from IV therapy to a less complex system could lend itself to employing prostanoid use earlier and for less severely affected PAH patients,” they said.

Dr. Wirth is affiliated with Tufts University, Boston. Dr. Palevsky is affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Both Dr. Wirth and Dr. Palevsky disclosed serving as consultants and as principal investigators for United Therapeutics.



Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) patients with moderate, stable disease can benefit from an implantable drug delivery system, based on data from a review of 60 adults with successful implantations. The findings were published in the December issue of CHEST.

“A fully implanted system offers patients the hope of returning to more normal activities such as bathing, swimming, and reduced risk of infections from externalized central venous catheter contamination or reduced subcutaneous pain from subcutaneous infusion,” wrote Aaron B. Waxman, MD, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, and his colleagues (Chest. 2017 June 3. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2017.04.188).

In the DelIVery Trial, clinicians at 10 locations in the United States placed a fully implantable delivery system in adults aged 18 years and older with stable PAH who were previously receiving treprostinil via an external pump at an average dose of 71 ng/kg per min.

All 60 patients were successfully implanted with a system consisting of a drug infusion pump placed in an abdominal pocket and an intravascular catheter linking the implanted pump to the superior vena cava.

“The location of the pump pocket was determined in partnership with the patient and was based on consideration of clothing styles, belt line and subcutaneous fat depth,” the researchers noted.

Procedure-related complications deemed clinically significant included one atrial fibrillation, two incidences of pneumothorax, two infections unrelated to catheter placement, and three catheter dislocations (two in the same patient). The most common patient complaints were expected implant site pain in 83% and bruising in 17%.

The findings were limited by the small number of patients, but the researchers identified several factors that contributed to the success of the procedure, including selecting patients who have shown response to treprostinil and are motivated to comply with pump refill visits, performing the procedure at centers with a high volume of PAH patients, keeping the procedure consistent for each patient, and using the same implant team in each case. “The implant procedure was successfully performed with a low complication rate by clinicians with a diverse range of specialty training,” the researchers added.

Patients reported satisfaction with the implant system at 6 weeks and 6 months, and said they spent an average of 75% less time managing their delivery system, according to previously published data on the patients’ perspective (CHEST 2016;150[1]:27-34).

Medtronic sponsored the study. The lead author, Dr. Waxman, had no financial conflicts to disclose; several coauthors reported relationships with companies including Medtronic, Actelion, Bayer, Gilead, Merck, and United Therapeutics.

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