Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is high blood pressure in the lungs. Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) refers to pulmonary hypertension caused by narrowing of the blood vessels that connect the right side of the heart to the lungs. PAH is a chronic disease that can progress over just a few years and lead to right heart failure if it is not treated and well-controlled.
Because PH is a highly complex, life-threatening disease, it requires care and close monitoring by an experienced healthcare team that specializes in the disease. At California Pacific Medical Center, doctors in the Pulmonary Hypertension Program focus exclusively on the disease and know the latest medical advances in the field.
Pulmonary hypertension can affect people of all ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds. It’s caused by many factors, including diseased heart valves, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, blood clots in the lungs, sleep apnea, liver cirrhosis and exposure to toxins. People with certain conditions such as scleroderma or liver cirrhosis are at higher risk for developing pulmonary hypertension. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, passing out and ankle swelling.
To diagnose pulmonary hypertension, we use an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) to calculate the blood pressure in your lungs. If we find pulmonary hypertension on your echocardiogram, we then work to pinpoint its cause, as the underlying condition determines the best treatment option. Your doctor may order tests such as a CT scan to look for pulmonary fibrosis, a VQ scan to look for blood clots in your lungs or an abdominal ultrasound to look for liver cirrhosis.
Treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension includes medications that specifically help the narrowed blood vessels between the right side of the heart and the lungs open wider. These medications range from pills, to inhaled treatments, to continuous intravenous infusions. If your pulmonary hypertension progresses despite treatment, you may require a lung transplant.