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Nov 18, 2013

10 Steps for Treating Pulmonary Hypertension in Patients with CHD

New study outlines optimal treatment of patients with congenital heart disease and pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Congenital heart disease is the most common type of birth defect, affecting one out of 110 babies born in the United States. Congenital heart disease can lead to health complications, including pulmonary arterial hypertension—a condition that causes blood pressure within the lungs to rise, putting added stress on the heart. Although little research has been done on this topic, a recent study published in the European Heart Journal outlined 10 important steps for optimal treatment of pulmonary hypertension in patients with congenital heart disease, all with the goal of standardizing treatment and improving outcomes.

The first step included in this paper is to identify the number of patients living with both conditions and engage them in medical care. Although congenital heart disease and pulmonary hypertension can shorten life expectancy, there are plenty of treatments available that help improve outcomes. However, patients can’t be treated unless their conditions are diagnosed and their health is monitored over time.

The next steps are to screen all patients with congenital heart disease for pulmonary hypertension (step two) and educate doctors on these co-existing conditions (step three). Pulmonary hypertension is unique in patients with congenital heart disease and doctors need to be thoroughly trained in how to screen and diagnose patients.

Steps four through eight include various treatment guidelines, including the use of blood pressure-lowering medications to improve quality of life and prognosis. Optimal treatments vary from patient to patient, so it’s important that doctors work closely with their patients to determine the best treatment plan for them.

The last two steps mentioned by authors include further research on this issue (step nine) and supporting care of patients with congenital heart disease and pulmonary hypertension in developing countries (step 10). In the past, this health issue has not received the attention it deserves and authors hope that this paper will help raise awareness and help patients with congenital heart disease live longer, healthier lives.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How many people have congenital heart disease?
  • Every year, 35,000 babies are born with congenital heart disease in the United States. It’s estimated that 90% of children who are born with a heart defect now survive well into adulthood and there are currently more than 1 million U.S. adults living with congenital heart disease.
  • What is pulmonary arterial hypertension?
  • Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a form of pulmonary hypertension in which the arteries in the lungs constrict abnormally. PAH causes the heart to work faster and increases blood pressure within the lungs. PAH typically worsens over time and can be life-threatening, as it puts added strain on the heart.

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