Pulmonary hypertension a silent killer

Feb 09, 2011

Millions of Americans take medication to treat hypertension. Although hypertension may be called the silent killer, it is widely recognized and commonly treated. Pulmonary hypertension, however, is poorly understood, difficult to diagnose, and often unrecognized.

“Pulmonary is a widespread problem, but even in the community it is largely under recognized” said Brett Fenster, MD, cardiologist at National Jewish Health.

Hypertension is high blood pressure throughout the body, whereas pulmonary hypertension occurs when pressure builds up only in the arteries leading to the lungs. That pressure makes it more difficult for the right side of the heart to pump blood through the lungs. Over time, the right side of the heart may weaken and can eventually fail.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Each year approximately 250,000 people in the United States are hospitalized with pulmonary hypertension, and 15,000 people die. Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension include shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, and leg swelling.

For 90 percent of patients, pulmonary hypertension is a complication of their existing lung disease. Patients who already suffer from lung disease should talk to their physician about pulmonary hypertension.

“We need to catch pulmonary hypertension early – once later stages of this disease develop, the prognosis is not good,” said Dr. Fenster.

A major obstacle to early detection and management of the disease is the difficulty of diagnosis.

“We measure blood pressure in every doctor’s office with a simple blood-pressure cuff on the arm. In contrast, the only way to definitively diagnose pulmonary hypertension is with an invasive cardiac catheterization,” said Dr. Fenster. “The holy grail is to find a non-invasive way to diagnose pulmonary hypertension.”

Currently National Jewish Health is investigating an imaging technique to diagnose pulmonary hypertension. Dr. Fenster and National Jewish Health radiologist Joyce Schroeder, MD, are using a cutting-edge four-dimensional cardiac MRI sequence to study complex blood flow patterns in the lung arteries and right side of the heart. They believe those flow patterns can be used to differentiate from normal circulation.

“If we can use non-invasive imaging instead of catheterization, we may be able to detect disease early in its course, monitor treatment more frequently and effectively, and do so with less risk and expense,” said Dr. Fenster.

Explore further: Restrictions lifted at British bird flu farm

Provided by National Jewish Health

4.5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Restrictions lifted at British bird flu farm

10 hours ago

Britain on Sunday lifted all restrictions at a duck farm in northern England after last month's outbreak of H5N8 bird flu, the same strain seen in recent cases across Europe.

Recorded Ebola deaths top 7,000

Dec 20, 2014

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has now killed more than 7,000 people, with many of the latest deaths reported in Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization said as United Nations Secretary-General Ban ...

Liberia holds Senate vote amid Ebola fears (Update)

Dec 20, 2014

Health workers manned polling stations across Liberia on Saturday as voters cast their ballots in a twice-delayed Senate election that has been criticized for its potential to spread the deadly Ebola disease.

Evidence-based recs issued for systemic care in psoriasis

Dec 19, 2014

(HealthDay)—For appropriately selected patients with psoriasis, combining biologics with other systemic treatments, including phototherapy, oral medications, or other biologic, may result in greater efficacy ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.