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Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that affects the pulmonary artery (the artery that goes from the heart to the lungs) and the right side of the heart. Pulmonary hypertension is a long-term or chronic disease affecting both sexes; however, it is more common in women. Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s vascular experts provide a variety of treatment options for those with pulmonary hypertension, right here in Columbus.
Very high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries causes changes in the blood vessels in your lungs and prevents normal blood flow through these vessels. High blood pressure in your lung vessels causes your right ventricle and right atrium (heart chambers) to become enlarged and weak and not pump as well.
Some forms of pulmonary hypertension are serious conditions that become progressively worse and sometimes fatal. Although some forms of this disease aren’t curable, treatment can help alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.
Pulmonary hypertension is usually inherited, and sometimes its cause is unknown. With pulmonary hypertension, changes in the cells that line your pulmonary arteries causes a rise in blood pressure, which then causes the artery walls to become stiff and thick. The blood vessels may also become inflamed and tight.
These changes in the arteries can reduce or block blood flow in the vessels, making it harder for blood to flow. This raises the blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries.
There are several types of pulmonary hypertension, and causes of the disease depend on the type:
Your risk of developing pulmonary hypertension may be greater if you have one or more of the following:
Other risk factors include:
Symptoms can be similar to congestive heart failure. In severe cases, fluid can back up into the abdomen and cause fullness, congestion of the liver and leg swelling. Other symptoms include:
In advanced stages of the disease, symptoms can include inability to perform even minimal activities; you can even experience symptoms when resting.
If your physician suspects you have pulmonary hypertension, you’ll have a complete examination and diagnostic tests that may include:
A perfusion lung scan is a type of nuclear scan that uses a special camera and a radioactive tracer to detect abnormalities in the organs of the body. A perfusion test measures the amount of blood an organ receives through its vessels to supply it with nutrients and oxygen. Certain conditions prevent different areas of your lungs from receiving even amounts of oxygen. Physicians order perfusion lung scans to help diagnose blockages in the pulmonary arteries, also known as embolisms. Physicians also use this test to determine the severity of lung diseases, as well as before lung removal surgery.
There are no special preparations for this test, although it’s important to tell your physician if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Your physician may order a chest X-ray before your perfusion lung scan test.
While pulmonary hypertension is not curable, it is treatable. The goal of treatment is to lower the pulmonary artery pressure and relieve symptoms. Treatment of idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension, the rarest form of pulmonary hypertension, varies according to the stage of the disease. Our specialists use testing and personalized assessment to decide which therapy is best for you. Treatment may include:
Medication: Our team uses various medications to treat pulmonary hypertension, and new studies are underway to test the efficacy of new medicine.
Surgery: If blood clots in your pulmonary artery have caused your pulmonary hypertension, your vascular specialist may recommend surgically removing the clots to improve blood flow. This is called a pulmonary thromboendarterectomy. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is one of the few hospitals in the Midwest that performs this procedure. We perform lung transplantation for advanced stages of pulmonary hypertension. In severe cases in which there has been damage to the heart, combined heart-lung transplantation may be required.
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has specialists in pulmonology and cardiology who provide comprehensive evaluation and treatment of pulmonary hypertension. Although idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension, a particular type of pulmonary hypertension, is considered a rare condition, our experts have the experience to treat these patients.
If the pulmonary hypertension is related to clots in the lungs it can be cured by surgical procedures. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is one of the few hospitals in the Midwest that performs pulmonary thromboendarterectomy, the surgical removal of blood clots in the pulmonary artery.
We’re also involved in several research studies for new medications and trials evaluating the use of Food and Drug Administration-approved combination therapy. This combination therapy involves combining various agents and therapies and is being evaluated in clinical trials.