PMID: 591249Nov 1, 1977

The effect of acute pulmonary edema on pulmonary vascular resistance: significance for the interpretation of dilated upper lobe vessels on chest radiographs

Investigative Radiology
C J SavocaA C Brito


Dilation of upper lobe pulmonary vessels is an important radiographic sign of acute, left heart failure. A prominent theory is that perivascular edema causes increased resistance at the lung bases and inverts the normal perfusion gradient such that upper lobe blood flow exceeds lower lobe flow. This theoretical increase in flow is thought to cause dilatation of upper lobe vessels. Previous experimental studies determined indirectly changes in resistance from changes in the perfusion gradient: Results were contradictory. We measured directly the effect of edema on resistance in isolated canine lungs. Resistance increased linearly with edema. The magnitude of increase was small, however, and insufficient to cause inversion of the perfusion gradient. Our data indicate that interstitial pulmonary edema does not cause significant redistribution of blood flow. We suggest that dilated upper lobe vessels are veins acting as pulmonary venous manometers, reflecting elevated left atrial pressure, not increased blood flow.

Related Concepts

Acute Disease
Pathological Dilatation
Canis familiaris
Heart Diseases
Pulmonary Circulation
Pulmonary Edema
Pulmonary Vascular Resistance

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