Pulmonary Hypertension

  • Medical Author:
    George Schiffman, MD, FCCP

    Dr. Schiffman received his B.S. degree with High Honors in biology from Hobart College in 1976. He then moved to Chicago where he studied biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. He attended Rush Medical College where he received his M.D. degree in 1982 and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of California, Irvine.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What causes of pulmonary hypertension

There are many causes of pulmonary hypertension. Often more than one mechanism is involved in a specific disease process. This can also change as the disease progresses.

  1. Diseases that affect flow out of the heart to the rest of the body result in backflow of blood (stacking of blood) that raises pulmonary venous pressures leading to pulmonary hypertension.
  2. Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction is the process in which the lung vessels narrow in attempt to divert blood from poorly functioning segments of the lung. For instance, when pneumonia develops, a portion of lung becomes inflamed and works poorly in performing the functions of the lung (to add oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the blood). This process diverts blood from these poorly working areas and sends it to better functioning lung tissue. However, a problem develops when all the blood has a low oxygen level (hypoxia). This causes constriction of the vessels on the pulmonary arterial side and hence raises the pressure.


  3. Remodeling of blood vessels also occurs in some diseases whereby the inner lining (lumen) of the vessel becomes narrowed due to inappropriate growth of the tissue within and around the vessel. Masses and scarring from other diseases can compress and narrow vessels causing increased resistance to flow resulting in elevation of pressures.
  4. In a fairly common parasitic infection in the Middle East (schistosomiasis), the blood vessels in the lung become blocked by the parasites causing pulmonary artery hypertension.
  5. Some substances cause constriction of the blood vessels. Pulmonary hypertension has been rarely reported with the use of anti-obesity drugs, such as dexfenfluramine (Redux) and Fen/Phen. These medications have seen been removed from the market. Some street drugs such as, cocaine and methamphetamines can cause severe pulmonary hypertension.
  6. Some diseases raise pulmonary pressures to cause pulmonary artery hypertension for unclear reasons. Perhaps an unknown toxin or chemical effects the blood vessels by causes constriction or inappropriate growth of the tissue within or around the vessel. For example, there is a condition known as portopulmonary hypertension that is result of liver failure. When these individuals receive a liver transplant, the pulmonary hypertension disappears suggesting that the failing liver is unable to clear some biochemical that leads to pulmonary artery hypertension.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/30/2016
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