Authors: Santamarina MG, Beddings I, Martinez Lomakin F, Boisier Riscal D

PMID: 34980198 PMCID: PMC8721481 DOI: 10.1186/s13054-021-03885-y


Background: SARS-CoV-2 seems to affect the regulation of pulmonary perfusion. Hypoperfusion in areas of well-aerated lung parenchyma results in a ventilation-perfusion mismatch that can be characterized using subtraction computed tomography angiography (sCTA). This study aims to evaluate the efficacy of oral sildenafil in treating COVID-19 inpatients showing perfusion abnormalities in sCTA.

Methods: Triple-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in Chile in a tertiary-care hospital able to provide on-site sCTA scans and ventilatory support when needed between August 2020 and March 2021. In total, 82 eligible adults were admitted to the ED with RT-PCR-confirmed or highly probable SARS-COV-2 infection and sCTA performed within 24 h of admission showing perfusion abnormalities in areas of well-aerated lung parenchyma; 42 were excluded and 40 participants were enrolled and randomized (1:1 ratio) once hospitalized. The active intervention group received sildenafil (25 mg orally three times a day for seven days), and the control group received identical placebo capsules in the same way. Primary outcomes were differences in oxygenation parameters measured daily during follow-up (PaO2/FiO2 ratio and A-a gradient). Secondary outcomes included admission to the ICU, requirement of non-invasive ventilation, invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV), and mortality rates. Analysis was performed on an intention-to-treat basis.

Results: Totally, 40 participants were enrolled (20 in the placebo group and 20 in the sildenafil group); 33 [82.5%] were male; and median age was 57 [IQR 41-68] years. No significant differences in mean PaO2/FiO2 ratios and A-a gradients were found between groups (repeated-measures ANOVA p = 0.67 and p = 0.69). IMV was required in 4 patients who received placebo and none in the sildenafil arm (logrank p = 0.04). Patients in the sildenafil arm showed a significantly shorter median length of hospital stay than the placebo group (9 IQR 7-12 days vs. 12 IQR 9-21 days, p = 0.04).

Conclusions: No statistically significant differences were found in the oxygenation parameters. Sildenafil treatment could have a potential therapeutic role regarding the need for IMV in COVID-19 patients with specific perfusion patterns in sCTA. A large-scale study is needed to confirm these results.

Keywords: Blood gas analysis; COVID-19; Intensive care unit; Length of stay; Mechanical ventilation; Sildenafil; Subtraction CT angiography; Ventilation–perfusion ratio.