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Pulmonary Hypertension
Treatment

The treatment for secondary pulmonary hypertension usually begins with treating the underlying cause. For instance, if a blood clot, or pulmonary embolism, is causing the hypertension, the clot may need to be surgically removed.

Several treatments are used to manage primary pulmonary hypertension, although they don't cure the condition. These include:

  • Calcium Channel Blocking Drugs — These help the heart pump better by relaxing muscles in the walls of blood vessels.

  • Endothelin Receptor Antagonists (ERAs) — These medications reverse the effects of endothelin, a substance in blood vessels that causes constriction.

  • Continuously Infused Epoprostenol — This drug dilates and reverses thickening of the blood vessels of the lungs, and helps prevent platelets from clotting the blood. It has to be administered continuously via an implanted catheter and a portable, battery operated pump. The drug lasts less than six minutes, which is why it must be infused continuously into the bloodstream.

  • Anticoagulants — These drugs help keep blood from clotting, which makes it flow better.

  • Diuretics — Prescribed to minimize water retention, a condition that makes the heart work harder.

  • Digoxin — This drug can help the right side of the heart pump better.

  • Lifestyle changes — Adequate rest, a healthy diet, exercise and stress reduction can help control the disease. People with pulmonary hypertension should avoid smoking, pregnancy, birth control pills and high altitudes.

  • Supplemental Oxygen — This is used for patients with low oxygen level in the blood.

  • Lung or Heart-Lung Transplantation — These procedures are employed for patients with severe pulmonary hypertension and extremely poor quality of life. It is the procedure of last resort.

  • Endothelin Receptor Antagonists (ERAs) — These medications reverse the effects of endothelin, a substance in blood vessels that causes constriction.

  • Continuously Infused Epoprostenol — This drug dilates and reverses thickening of the blood vessels of the lungs, and helps prevent platelets from clotting the blood. It has to be administered continuously via an implanted catheter and a portable, battery operated pump. The drug lasts less than six minutes, which is why it must be infused continuously into the bloodstream.

  • Anticoagulants — These drugs help keep blood from clotting, which makes it flow better.

  • Diuretics — Prescribed to minimize water retention, a condition that makes the heart work harder.

  • Digoxin — This drug can help the right side of the heart pump better.

  • Lifestyle changes — Adequate rest, a healthy diet, exercise and stress reduction can help control the disease. People with pulmonary hypertension should avoid smoking, pregnancy, birth control pills and high altitudes.

  • Supplemental Oxygen — This is used for patients with low oxygen level in the blood.

  • Lung or Heart-Lung Transplantation — These procedures are employed for patients with severe pulmonary hypertension and extremely poor quality of life. It is the procedure of last resort.

  • Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

    Related Information

    UCSF Clinics & Centers

    Heart & Vascular Center

    Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic
    400 Parnassus Ave., Plaza Level
    San Francisco, CA 94143
    Phone: (415) 353-9088
    Fax: (415) 353-3889
    Appointment information

    Heart Transplant Program
    400 Parnassus Ave., Sixth Floor
    San Francisco, CA 94143
    Phone: (415) 353-4145
    Fax: (415) 353-4166
    Appointment information

    Lung Transplant Program
    400 Parnassus Ave., Sixth Floor
    San Francisco, CA 94143
    Phone: (415) 353-4145
    Fax: (415) 353-4166
    Appointment information

    Special Programs