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Pulmonary Hypertension—Child

(Hypertension, Pulmonary—Child)

Definition

Pulmonary hypertension is an abnormal increase in the pressure of blood flow in the arteries of the lungs. As a result, the right side of the heart needs to pump harder to move blood against the pressure. If left untreated, the right side of the heart can fail.

Heart and Lungs
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Causes

This problem may be caused by:

Pulmonary hypertension can also be inherited. This is called familial pulmonary hypertension. In other people, the cause is not known.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Being born with a heart defect or a deformity of the chest wall
  • Having certain health problems, such as scleroderma, sickle cell disease, lupus, and HIV
  • Having heart or lung disease
  • Having a family member with pulmonary hypertension
  • Living at a high altitude

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Blue coloring of skin around mouth, hands, and feet
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Cough
  • Lack of energy
  • Fainting and lightheadedness
  • Ankle or leg swelling

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Blood tests may be done.

Images may be taken of your child's body. This can be done with:

Your child's lung function may be tested. This can be done with pulmonary function tests.

Treatment

Underlying causes will be treated. In others, symptoms will be managed with medicines, such as:

  • Medicine to lower blood pressure in the lungs
  • Blood thinners
  • Diuretics to remove excess fluids
  • Nitric oxide to relax the muscles in the arteries of the lungs

Oxygen therapy may also be needed to raise the level of oxygen in the blood.

Children who are not helped by these methods may need a lung transplant.

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Cardiovascular Society
http://www.ccs.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Nair J, Lakshminrusimha S. Update on PPHN: mechanisms and treatment. Semin Perinatol. 2014 Mar;38(2):78-91.

Persistent pulmonary hypertension of newborn. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/persistent-pulmonary-hypertension-of-the-newborn-pphn. Accessed March 9, 2021.

Pulmonary hypertension. Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at: https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/p/pulmonary-hypertension. Accessed March 9, 2021.

Pulmonary hypertension. Cincinnati Children’s website. Available at: http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/info/heart/diagnose/ph.htm. Accessed March 9, 2021.

Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD  Last Updated: 3/9/2021