Pulmonary Hypoxic Hypertension

Pulmonary hypoxic hypertension as the name suggests involves high blood pressure and low oxygen (hypoxic) levels.  This results from constricted pulmonary arteries to certain areas of the lungs.  This phenomenon may seem illogical in that the pulmonary arteries actually constrict in the presence of low oxygen levels and this occurs without high carbon dioxide levels.  Many would think that the arteries would relax and allow for greater blood flow to get more oxygen exchange.  Under normal conditions, this is a mechanism to redirect blood flow to alveoli that have higher oxygen content.  This constriction changes the distribution of blood flow in the lungs to areas of the lung that have more air.  This increases the total area available in gas exchange since blood is not flowing to poorly ventilated aveoli.  However, in the case of long-term whole-body hypoxia such as in HP, this works against the system.  This is often seen in COPD and heart failure.  Going to high altitudes can bring about the same phenomenon.

Pulmonary hypoxic hypertension Symptoms

  • Pulmonary hypoxic hypertension shares many of the same symptoms as other forms of HP.
  • Asymptomatic initially
  • Pain in the chest
  • Fainting spells and dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Edema of the feet and ankles (fluid retention and swelling)
  • Jugular vein distention
  • Ascites (swollen abdomen due to fluid buildup)
  • Clubbing of fingers
  • Increased blood pressure in the vessels leading to the lungs

Pulmonary Hypoxic Hypertension Diagnosis

For a PHH diagnosis, a doctor will explore medical and family history.  A physical exam will be done to determine what symptoms a patient has.  To confirm that a person has some form of PH, certain tests will be run, such as an echocardiogram, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG) and/or right heart catheterization.  If it is determined that a person has pulmonary hypoxic hypertension, a doctor will try to determine the underlying cause.  To do this s/he will run Lung function tests, chest CT and MRI scans, and/or Polysomnograms.

Pulmonary Hypoxic Hypertension Treatments

Treatments for Pulmonary hypoxic hypertension are pretty much the same as for other forms of HP which include:

  • Diuretics to reduce fluid buildup in the body (edema)
  • Blood thinners (anticoagulants) to prevent clot formation
  • Digoxin which is used to treat congestive heart failure.  This slows down heart rate during atrial fibrillation (a rapid, irregular heart beat).
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Calcium channel blockers for vessel relaxation
  • Prostacylins for blood vessel relaxation and to prevent clot formation
  • Heart or lung transplant
  • Medications to treat the underlying cause if known

Pulmonary Hypoxic Hypertension Prognosis

Early diagnosis is important as well as finding the appropriate therapy(s), however there is no cure.