Diagnosis and differential assessment of pulmonary arterial hypertension

Robyn J. Barst, Michael McGoon, Adam Torbicki, Olivier Sitbon, Michael J. Krowka, Horst Olschewski, Sean Gaine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

781 Scopus citations


Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is diagnosed by various investigations that are essential for making the diagnosis, and by additional tests to clarify the category of pulmonary hypertension (PH). A diagnostic algorithm can guide the evaluation of PH, but like all guidelines the algorithm can be modified according to specific clinical circumstances. Most patients are diagnosed as the result of an evaluation of symptoms, whereas others are diagnosed during screening of asymptomatic populations at risk. Right heart catheterization (RHC) must be performed in patients with suspected PH to establish the diagnosis and document pulmonary hemodynamics. Before initiation of medical therapy, assessment of acute vasoreactivity (during catheterization) is necessary to determine the appropriate therapy for an individual patient. An acute response is generally defined as a decrease in mean pulmonary arterial pressure of at least 10 mm Hg with the mean pulmonary arterial pressure decreasing to 40 mm Hg or below, accompanied by a normal or high cardiac output. After PAH is diagnosed, disease severity should be assessed in order to accurately determine risk:benefit profiles for various therapeutic options. Useful tools to predict outcome include functional class, exercise capacity, pulmonary hemodynamics, acute vasoreactivity, right ventricular function, as well as brain natriuretic peptide, endothelin-1, uric acid, and troponin levels. Repeating these tests serially on treatment is useful for monitoring the response to a given therapy. Close follow-up at a center specializing in management of PH is recommended, with careful periodic reassessment and adjustment of therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S40-S47
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number12 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Jun 16 2004


  • BMI
  • CI
  • ECG
  • IPAH
  • PA
  • PAH
  • PASP
  • body mass index
  • cardiac index
  • chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension
  • electrocardiogram
  • idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension
  • pulmonary arterial hypertension
  • pulmonary artery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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