Viagra Helps Tot With Lung Problems

ByABC News via GMA logo
November 18, 2003, 9:18 PM

Nov. 19 -- When 2-year-old Chance Collins was suffering from severe lung problems, pediatricians at an Arkansas hospital nearly floored his parents with the treatment they chose to help him breathe better: Viagra.

Chance, whose breathing problems stem from being born three months prematurely, isn't the only young patient to benefit from the impotence-treatment drug designed to rekindle men's sex lives.

For about the past year, some pediatricians from around the country have been using the drug to treat infants with breathing problems, and reporting great success, said Dr. Jerrill Green, a critical care specialist who treated Chance at the Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock.

The treatment is used for premature babies with chronic lung disease or who have cardiac problems and suffer from pulmonary hypertension, which can leave them in a life-or-death situation.

"The Viagra opens up the arteries in these children's lungs, allowing blood to flow in more easily," Green said. It also helps lower their high blood pressure, which is caused by their hearts' having to overwork, and it increases oxygen flow to the lungs, he said.

Children's Hospital in Boston first used Viagra on an infant with heart disease and pulmonary hypertension in 1998. Doctors there were looking for a way to allow the child to breathe on her own without using nitric oxide gas, which is produced naturally by the body and known to relax blood vessels in the lungs.

Did You Say Viagra?

Chance's parents, Candace and Ronnie Collins, have spent the past two years checking Chance in and out of hospitals because of his breathing problems, so they are used to talking to doctors. But they were perplexed when Green told them that he was giving Chance Viagra.

"It was quite a shock," Candace Collins said. "I started asking 'Why you would use that on a 2 year-old?'"

Despite being surprised, parents of children with breathing problems agree to the treatment because the youngsters are so sick, Green said.