Pulmonary Hypertension: Diagnosis

Reviewed by Marjorie Patricia George, MD

The diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension can be difficult and is often delayed until the disease has progressed. Pulmonary hypertension cannot be diagnosed non-invasively.

When diagnosing pulmonary hypertension, an ultrasound of the heart, or echocardiogram, can provide an estimate of the pressure in the heart.

Only a procedure called a right heart catheterization (RHC) can directly measure blood pressure in the lungs and determine if pulmonary hypertension is present. A right heart catheterization can also be used to determine if pulmonary hypertension is responsive to intravenous vasodilator medication. This will help determine whether or not a person is a candidate for chronic medication treatment.

Other tests are performed to screen for associated diseases, including blood tests, EKG, chest X-ray, pulmonary function testing, and a test for lung blood clots called a ventilation/perfusion scan (VQ scan). A 6-minute walk time is typically performed to assess a person’s exercise capacity and need to oxygen therapy.


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