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What Is Pulmonary Hypertension?

Pulmonary hypertension is when pressure increases in the arteries inside your lungs. Having high blood pressure in your lungs also affects the right side of your heart.

Pulmonary Hypertension Program University of Utah Health

Many different things can cause pulmonary hypertension. University of Utah Health’s Pulmonary Hypertension Program is the only comprehensive care center for pulmonary hypertension in the region. Our role is to identify what's causing your pulmonary hypertension and help you understand your treatment options.

Pulmonary Hypertension Symptoms

Pulmonary hypertension can cause several signs and symptoms that may include the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Abnormal kidney function (this is when your kidneys don’t work how they should)

Find a Pulmonary Hypertension Specialist

Causes of Pulmonary Hypertension

The following are causes of pulmonary hypertension:

  • Left sided heart disease. This includes hypertension, valvular heart disease, heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, or heart failure with reduced ejection fraction
  • Chronic hypoxic lung disease. This includes emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis, and others.
  • Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. “Idiopathic” means doctors don’t know what causes the disease. People with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension often have very increased pulmonary artery pressures inside their lungs. This disease can also happen if you have autoimmune disease, HIV, amphetamine use, or other conditions.
  • Blood clots. This includes both new blood clots (called acute) and chronic blood clots, meaning they’ve lasted for more than three months.
  • Liver disease.
  • Other conditions. These can include hematological (blood) disease, sarcoidosis, and other rare conditions.

How Is Pulmonary Hypertension Diagnosed?

As a starting point, your doctor will give you a physical examination and ask for your complete medical history. But doctors often use other tests and procedures to diagnose pulmonary hypertension including one, or a combination of, the following:

  • Echocardiogram (also called echo). An echocardiogram is a noninvasive test that uses sound waves to check how your heart's chambers and valves are moving. The echo sound waves create an image on a computer monitor while your doctor moves an ultrasound transducer (wand) over your heart.
  • Pulmonary function test. These tests are breathing tests that show if a person has airway disease.
  • Blood laboratories. Blood labs or blood samples measure the markers in your blood. They can also show how your organs are working.
  • Cardiac catheterization. In this procedure, your doctor will check the pressures in your heart and lungs as well as check for signs of left sided heart disease. This procedure will help us determine your therapy options.
  • Biopsies. During a biopsy, your doctor will remove a small sample of tissue and then analyze it. Depending on the disease, we will need either a heart or lung biopsy to determine what type of pulmonary hypertension you have.

Treatment for Pulmonary Hypertension

University of Utah Health’s Pulmonary Hypertension Program offers fast and comprehensive evaluation for patients with pulmonary hypertension. Our center brings together a team of experts from different specialties, including pulmonary medicine, cardiovascular medicine, and critical care medicine to focus their attention on diagnosing and treating pulmonary hypertension.

Our staff works together with each patient individually to create a treatment that best suits your needs—from medications, lifestyle changes, surgery, or, if needed, transplant surgery.


  • Advanced imaging with cardiac MRI and computed tomography
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Comprehensive evaluation
  • Counseling
  • Genetic testing
  • Heart and lung biopsy
  • Lung and heart evaluation
  • Innovative treatment options
  • Targeted pharmacotherapy
  • Lung transplantation
  • Participation in research clinical trials

For Our Patients

If You Get Winded Easily, It Might Be Pulmonary Hypertension

Do you find yourself short of breath taking even a slow walk with the dog? Do you have to stop and catch your breath by the time you get to the top of a short staircase? Pulmonary hypertension might be the cause. It can limit your quality of life and, untreated, eventually lead to heart failure.

Read About the Symptoms

Pulmonary Hypertension Support Group

University of Utah Health is excited to offer our Pulmonary Hypertension Support Group. This group brings together patients diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension to discuss their experiences, share ideas, and provide emotional support for one another.

Learn About the Support Group