Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary Hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs, causing the right side of the heart to work harder. Overtime the right side of the heart becomes enlarged and weakens.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Lower extremity swelling
  • Chest pain or palpitations
  • Weakness/ Fatigue
  • Hypoxemia

What are the risk factors/causes?

IPAH (idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension) or Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (There is no known underlying cause of the disease)

  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, meaning there is no known cause
  • Blood Clots in the lungs or Pulmonary Embolism
  • Primary Heart Problems
    • Congestive Heart Failure
    • Valvular Heart Disease
    • Congenital Heart Disease, or heart problems that a person is born with
  • Lung Diseases
    • COPD or Emphysema
    • Pulmonary Fibrosis
  • Connective Tissue Diseases
    • Scleroderma or Systemic Sclerosis
    • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome

How is it diagnosed?

Pulmonary hypertension can be difficult to diagnose, and, unfortunately, sometimes patients can go for many years without knowing what is causing them to be short of breath. If your doctor suspects pulmonary hypertension, he may order a special heart ultrasound, called an echocardiogram, to help estimate the pressures in the heart and how well the heart is functioning. Further evaluation may include pulmonary function testing to measure lung function, tests of oxygenation with exercise, imaging tests including CT scan, and blood tests. Most patients with suspected pulmonary hypertension require a right heart catheterization, which provides a very accurate measurement of the blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries and will allow your doctor to determine the appropriate course of treatment.

What is the Treatment?

Treatment of pulmonary hypertension depends on the underlying cause. If there is a known cause of the disease, your doctor will recommend treatment aimed at that condition. In the case of idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension, a number of medications, called vasodilators, are used to lower the blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries. These medications may be in oral, inhaled, or intravenous form, depending on the results of the right heart catheterization. Piedmont Physicians Georgia Lung is also able to offer our patients the opportunity to participate in clinical research trials of new medications for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension. Some patients may require the use of supplemental oxygen, and most patients will benefit from regular exercise. At Piedmont Physicians Georgia Lung, patients with pulmonary hypertension can participate in our Pulmonary Rehabilitation program, which provides closely monitored exercise training for patients with all kinds of lung diseases.

Although there is no cure for pulmonary hypertension, early diagnosis and treatment will improve symptoms and quality of life. State of the art medications have been shown to slow the progression of the disease.