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Treatment Heart & Vascular

Pulmonary Hypertension

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.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

Recommended reading

FAQ: Heart Transplant

There are a number of things you can do to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of heart disease such as eating right and staying active. Learn more.

FAQ: Lung Transplant

Common questions regarding lung transplants including, how it will change a patient's life, how long the waiting list is, potential complications and more.

Pulmonary Hypertension and Interstitial Lung Disease

Pulmonary hypertension, or PH, occurs when blood pressure in the lungs becomes elevated, and can be caused by a thickening of the pulmonary artery walls.

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