Nitric oxide is a significant biologic mediator in a number of physiologic processes. Clinical and laboratory studies in both human and animal models have uncovered a number of conditions responsive to nitric oxide therapy. The use of inhaled nitric oxide is rapidly expanding into neonatal and pediatric critical care. Presently, the primary clinical indication for nitric oxide is pulmonary hypertension of either a primary or secondary etiology. Some patient populations that are refractory to conventional management demonstrate significant improvement when receiving nitric oxide therapy. This article discusses the physiologic properties of nitric oxide, as well as its diagnostic and therapeutic indications. Specific issues regarding nitric oxide delivery, monitoring, safety standards, and nursing care are also addressed.

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