What Is Pulmonary Hypertension? A Doctor Explains

Print icon

Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart. Learn more from Dr. Dina Darsaklis, Cardiology Director of Pulmonary Vascular Disease at Hartford Hospital

Q: What is pulmonary hypertension? What are its causes?

A: Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in your lungs and the right side of your heart.

In one form of pulmonary hypertension, tiny arteries in your lungs, called pulmonary arterioles, and capillaries become narrowed, blocked or destroyed. This makes it harder for blood to flow through your lungs, and raises pressure within your lungs’ arteries. As the pressure builds, your heart’s lower right chamber must work harder to pump blood through your lungs, eventually causing your heart muscle to weaken and fail.

Overworked and enlarged, the right ventricle gradually becomes weaker, and loses its ability to pump enough blood to the lungs. This could eventually lead to the development of right heart failure.

Q: What are the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension? How is it diagnosed?

A: Pulmonary hypertension is a tricky disease in the sense that, in the beginning of the disease process, one of the only symptoms is usually shortness of breath with everyday activities, such as climbing stairs. Fatigue, dizziness, and fainting spells also can be symptoms. Swelling in the ankles, abdomen or legs, bluish lips and skin, and chest pain may occur later in the disease process, as strain on the heart increases.

Eventually, it may become difficult to carry out everyday activities as the disease worsens.

Q: What are some of the treatment options offered at Hartford Hospital to treat this condition?

A: A comprehensive team approach works best for patients. That is, a clinical combined front featuring a pulmonologist and a cardiologist. Much depends on the type of hypertension, as this will help determine the treatment. It can range from combined oral therapy to infusion pumps. Hartford Hospital is also participating in an international research study involving patients that suffer from pulmonary hypertension with left heart disease or HIV.

Q: Are there any new treatments on the horizon?

A: Yes. External infusion pumps have been used to deliver prostacyclins for this condition, but managing the therapy places a significant burden on patients, interferes with their daily activities, and runs a high risk of infections.

This past year, the FDA an Implantable System for Remodulin, a type of prostacyclin drug, for patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension.  The benefit is that it’s implantable, and takes significant burden off of the patient.

Q: How does it work?

A: Surgeons insert the intravascular catheter through a vein, and connect the catheter to the pump in a pump pocket placed beneath the abdominal skin. The surgeon then uses the handheld programmer device to program and review the pump’s settings. Once the surgeon programs the pump, the medicine is injected through the pump tubing to the delivery site. The pump remains permanently implanted and the health care provider can refill the pump as needed.

Learn more about your treatment options for pulmonary hypertension here, or call 1-855-HHC-HERE  (1.855.442.4373).


What's New

Apple Watch and AFib

Why Heart Patients Shouldn’t Use Apple Watch to Detect AFib

Seems that the Apple smartwatch can do it all – check email, send an SOS, connect to your car, get directions, open your garage door and order a pizza — but checking your heartbeat for atrial fibrillation might not make sense. Dr. Steven Zweibel, director of electrophysiology at the Hartford...


HHC Cardiologist Brings Experience With Him on Mission Trip to Jordan

The moment Dr. Waseem Chaudhry examined a woman whose veins were protruding, filled with patches of yellow and red bumps because of her high cholesterol he knew he was far, far away from his Hartford office. Dr. Chaudhry, a cardiologist at the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute, was in...


Why Athletes are More at Risk for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Markelle Fultz makes a living – he was the NBA’s No. 1 pick overall in the 2017 draft by the Philadelphia 76ers — by keeping his arms aloft, guarding his team’s basket from the jump shots of opposing players. Now, that very movement has sidelined him for at least a...

Cholesterol

Why Coronary Calcium Testing is a Focus of New Cholesterol Guidelines

The recent introduction of new American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) cholesterol guidelines underscored the need for a more personalized approach to assessing cardiovascular disease risk, including more widespread use of coronary calcium testing, an approach long supported by Hartford HealthCare’s Preventive Cardiology Program. The AHA,...

Winter and your heart.

Why Breathing Winter Air Through Your Mouth Is Bad for Your Heart

Benefits from exercising in the winter include helping beat seasonal blues, increasing energy levels and boosting your immune system in cold and flu season, but breathing cold air can have adverse effects on your body. “The rate of heart attacks may be as much as 30 percent higher in the...