Pulmonary hypertension is not a condition that can be “caught early” due to its ability not to be detected quickly. Ensuring your primary physician is aware of your personal and family’s medical history, as well as any abnormal symptoms, will aid in the diagnosing or process elimination to determine the condition. The following tests will also help in diagnosing pulmonary hypertension.
- Echocardiogram – An ultrasound of the heart will allow your physician to see your heart actively working as well as determine the size and functioning of the right ventricle, specifically the lower right chamber of the heart. Your doctor may also have you walk/run on a treadmill to create stress on the heart and see how well it functions.
- X-Ray of the Chest – Using radiography, an x-ray will take pictures of your heart, lungs and entire chest region. This can show enlargement of the heart or the pulmonary arteries.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) – The test consists of placing leads, small circular pads on specific points of your chest to measure heart rate, rhythm and can detect any inconsistencies. This will aid in the diagnostic process as well as the severity of the condition.
- Catheterization – An invasive test, precisely into the right side of your heart will also officially determine the diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension as well as severity. The procedure consists of a flexible line known as a catheter inserted either via an artery in the neck region or the femoral artery through the groin. This will allow the physician to measure volume, pressure, and effectiveness of the right side of the heart.
- Labs – Your physician may require specific labs to be drawn to check for certain substances that may be contributing to pulmonary hypertension, as well as causes.
There are plenty of other tests your physician may order such as CT scan, MRI, pulmonary function test, or genetic tests.
What are the complications of pulmonary hypertension?
- Heart Enlargement & Heart Failure – With pulmonary hypertension, the right side of the heart, responsible for pumping blood into the lungs, has to increase its workload to continue to pump blood effectively. The arteries have become constricted due to stiffness and extra tissue. The heart has compensated by increasing its tissue thickness for the ability to hold more supply of blood. Eventually, this no longer works, and the heart fails.
- Embolisms – Also known as blood clots, generally after some form of trauma, which can be helpful. When they become dangerous, such as forming due to narrow and constricted veins, can cause pulmonary hypertension or pulmonary embolisms, which are a significant risk to one’s health.
- Irregular Heart rate – Also known as arrhythmias, are due to chronic complications from pulmonary hypertension. Arrhythmias can cause tachycardia, vertigo or syncope. Arrhythmias are also fatal if not treated immediately and correctly.
- Hemoptysis – The medical term for coughing up blood is hemoptysis, which is caused by pulmonary hypertension. The condition can lead to blood going into the lungs that can be another fatal complication.