Can I Die from Pulmonary Hypertension?

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How Serious is Pulmonary Hypertension?

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 6/9/2011

Can I die from pulmonary hypertension? Here we will explore this question and provide an analysis of this condition and related mortality.

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    Pulmonary hypertension is a lung disorder and it is quite rare. The arteries that transport blood from the heart to the lungs become narrowed, resulting in blood flow through the vessels becoming difficult, eventually leading to pulmonary artery pressure increasing far above what is considered normal. When the heart becomes enlarged and overworked, the right ventricle loses its ability to send adequate blood to the lungs and it becomes weaker. This may result in right heart failure. This condition affects twice as many adult women as men, and is most common in young adults.

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    Prognosis

    In general, long-term prognosis is poor, however with the emergence of new therapies better results are possible. Some patients may die due to the development of progressive heart failure. The median survival rate is 2.8 years, according to Trenton D. Nauser M.D. and Steven W. Stites M.D. of the University of Kansas Medical Center. They state, however, that this is a highly variable figure. They estimate that patients can survive for longer than ten years when there is no evidence of hemodynamics of right ventricular dysfunction.

    Patients who have secondary pulmonary hypertension will have different survival rates depending on right ventricular function, as well as the underlying disease. For example, a patient with moderate airflow obstruction and COPD have a prognosis of three years with a 50 percent rate after right ventricular failure begins. Prognosis is similar among patient who have pulmonary hypertension and interstitial lung disease.

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    Other Facts and Figures

    There are some other important facts and figures for patients and caregivers that can help to answer the question, can I die from pulmonary hypertension. These include the following:

    • This condition typically occurs along with another condition or disease, such as lung diseases, pregnancy, sleep apnea, thyroid diseases, using illicit drugs or certain diet medications, blood vessel and heart diseases, liver diseases, connective tissue diseases such as scleroderma and lupus, or HIV infection.
    • The majority of patients are older women, however, this condition can affect all ages, races and ethnic groups.
    • Before 1995, patients lived on average for less than three years after being diagnosed. Now, quality of life and survival rates have improved with new treatments.
    • This condition resulted in 260,000 hospital visits and 15,668 deaths in the United States in 2002.
    • Between the years 2000 and 2002, 807,000 patients had to be hospitalized due to this condition. Of these patients, 66 percent were age 65 or older and 61 percent were women.
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    Resources

    The Cleveland Clinic. (2010). Pulmonary Hypertension: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment. Retrieved on September 1, 2010 from The Cleveland Clinic: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/pulmonary_hypertension/hic_pulmonary_hypertension_causes_symptoms_diagnosis_treatment.aspx

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Pulmonary Hypertension Fact Sheet. Retrieved on September 1, 2010 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/library/fs_pulmonary_hypertension.htm

    Nauser, T.D. MD and Stites, S.W. MD. (2001). Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Retrieved on September 1, 2010 from American Family Physician: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/0501/p1789.html

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