Offering Testing, Diagnosis and Medication Therapies for Pulmonary Hypertension Patients
Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. This occurs when the artery that carries blood from the heart to the lungs becomes narrowed, restricting blood flow. As the heart works harder to pump the blood, it becomes enlarged, causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, tiredness, dizziness, leg swelling or chest pain.
Initially, patients with these symptoms may receive an echocardiogram. But a diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension requires referral to a specialist for additional testing.
SLUCare pulmonologist Dr. John Mwangi offers a full range of tests to diagnose pulmonary hypertension, along with follow-up care for patients diagnosed with the disease. Treatments include medications to relieve symptoms, prevent disease progression and improve quality of life. In severe cases, patients may be referred to specialized centers for surgery.
Dr. Mwangi works with our dedicated pulmonary hypertension coordinator Traci Waller, BSN, RN. Traci works with insurance companies, drug manufacturers and patient assistance programs to help patients access the medications they need to manage their disease over a lifetime. Throughout treatment, patients with urgent needs can reach Traci – day or night – through a dedicated pulmonary hypertension hotline.
Pulmonary Hypertension Tests
Many conditions can cause pulmonary hypertension. As part of an academic medical practice, the SLUCare Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic offers a variety of tests in one location to streamline care for faster diagnosis.
- Lung function tests
- Specialized CT scan of the chest
- Ventilation perfusion scan
- 6-minute walk distance test
- Oxygen saturation test
- Sleep study for obstructive sleep apnea, which can complicate treatment
- Cardiopulmonary exercise testing
- Right-heart catheterization
Diagnosis and Treatment: A Team Effort
Throughout testing and in our follow-up care, Dr. Mwangi leads a team of experts in the care of pulmonary hypertension patients, including:
- Social workers
- Physical therapists
- And more
By offering a higher level of coordinated care, the SLUCare Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic helps to improve patients’ capacity for exercise and daily activities, to slow progression of the disease, and to prevent hospitalization to the greatest extent possible.
Patients We See
Most patients in the Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic are referred by other physicians: primary care doctors, rheumatologists, cardiologists and community pulmonologists. Due to the severity of this condition, we try to accommodate all patients within 2-3 weeks of referral.
Conditions that put a patient at risk for pulmonary hypertension include:
- Family history of pulmonary arterial hypertension
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Congenital heart disease
- Connective tissue diseases, such as scleroderma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis
- History of pulmonary embolism
- Sickle cell disease
- Blood diseases, such as leukemia
- History of using methamphetamine or weight loss medication