Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension

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Pulmonary hypertension occurs when the pressure in the blood vessels of your child’s lungs gets too high.

This increase in pressure makes it harder for the heart to pump blood. Specifically, the right side of the heart must pump harder, which can lead to heart failure.

Pulmonary hypertension in children can result from:

  • Birth defects of the heart, such as septal defects and leaky heart valves
  • Deformity of the chest wall (pectus excavatum)
  • Conditions like scleroderma, sickle cell disease, lupus, HIV
  • Heart and/or lung disease
  • Blood clots in the lungs
  • Genetics

Symptoms of Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension

A child with pulmonary hypertension may have:

  • Progressive shortness of breath
  • Blue coloring of skin around mouth, hands, feet
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Fast heart rate
  • Chronic cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting, lightheadedness
  • Ankle or leg swelling from fluid retention

Getting Your Child a Diagnosis   

Your pediatrician can use these tests to check your child’s heart and lungs:

  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Echocardiogram
  • Pulmonary function test

Treating Pulmonary Hypertension in Children  

Treatment strategies include:

  • Addressing the defect or disease that has caused the pulmonary hypertension
  • Giving medicine to lower lung blood pressure and prevent blood clots
  • Using nitric oxide gas to expand blood vessels in the lungs
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Lung transplant, in severe cases