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What is Epoprostenol?

By Michele Wyan
Updated May 17, 2024
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Epoprostenol is an intravenous drug prescribed for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension. This drug is a vasodilator. It also inhibits platelet aggregation. It is administered via a portable infusion pump that carries it directly and continuously to the heart through a catheter inserted into a vein in the patient’s chest.

This medication is a prostaglandin, a lipid compound that occurs naturally in the body. Prostaglandins play a role in many bodily functions, including muscle contraction and relaxation. Epoprostenol relaxes blood vessels and increases the blood supply to the lungs. It helps ease the symptoms of chest pain, tiredness and shortness of breath.

Epoprostenol comes in a powder form. The vials of powder need to be reconstituted before use by mixing them with a sterile liquid called a diluent that comes with the drug. A syringe is used to inject the reconstituted epoprostenol sodium into a cassette that is then inserted into the patient's infusion pump.

The mixed solution can be stored at room temperature for a limited time. It also can be stored in the refrigerator for a limited time. Epoprostenol solution, though, should not be allowed to freeze, and any frozen solution should be discarded.

This drug is intended to be administered continually, so patients should make sure that they have a second infusion pump as a backup in case their first pump fails. Stopping the use of this medicine, even for a brief time, can cause symptoms to worsen. Any skipped doses should be reported to a doctor at once.

With epoprostenol, as with any medication, allergic reactions can result. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to this drug include skin rash, itching, hives and breathing problems. Swelling of the lips, tongue or face can also indicate an allergy to this medication. Patients should report such symptoms to healthcare providers at once.

Other possible side effects of epoprostenol include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, flushing, abdominal pain and jaw or muscle pain. In addition, pain, redness or swelling can develop at the injection site. Infection can also develop at the injection site. Any evidence of infection such as fever or redness should be reported to the patient’s doctor.

Many drugs can interact with epoprostenol. Analgesics such as aspirin and ibuprofen, for example, can increase the risk of bleeding when taken with epoprostenol. Cold medicines could increase blood pressure. For this reason, it is vital for patients to make sure that their doctors know every medication they’re taking.

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