The left side of the heart pumps blood out of the lungs to the rest of your body. The right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs where the blood can pick up oxygen. When the lung (pulmonary) arteries and vessels register a high blood pressure, which requires diagnostic tests to be measured, it is called pulmonary hypertension (PHT).
If PHT is suspected based on your medical history, physical exam and symptoms, one or more of the following tests may assist your physician in confirming the diagnosis:
- Chest X-ray. An X-ray will help assess lung condition.
- Echocardiogram. An "echo" uses ultrasound waves to produce a moving picture of the heart and heart valves.
- Electrocardiogram. An ECG or EKG records the electrical activity of the heart and shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias).
- Catheterization. This test provides direct measurement of the pressure in the pulmonary arteries.
- Exercise test. A brief walk on a treadmill helps determine exercise capacity.
Additional tests that identify the cause of diagnosed PHT include:
- Blood tests, to rule out hepatitis, collagen disease, HIV or other conditions.
- Ventilation-perfusion scan, used to rule out a pulmonary embolism or blood clot in the arteries to the lungs.
- Tomography, a CT or CAT scan, to rule out abnormalities of the lung tissue.
- Pulmonary function test, to rule out lung tissue disease, such as emphysema or pulmonary fibrosis.
While there is no cure for pulmonary hypertension, treatment plans can help manage the condition and vary based on the underlying cause. Treatment options can include:
- Lifestyle changes. Such changes include weight loss in obese patients, therapy to quit smoking, medications to lower high cholesterol, a program of monitored exercise and relaxation or breathing techniques.
- Oxygen supplements. Portable oxygen is often used to increase blood oxygen levels.
- Calcium channel blockers. These medications dilate (widen) the coronary arteries. They may also decrease the heart muscle's demand for oxygen/blood.