Enhancing the accuracy of echocardiography in the diagnosis of pulmonary arterial hypertension: looking at the heart to learn about the lungs

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Purpose of review

Although routine use of Doppler echocardiography has led to an increased recognition of pulmonary hypertension, the role of Doppler echocardiography has largely remained as a screening tool with the primary emphasis on the presence or absence of an increased Doppler-estimated pulmonary artery systolic pressure (PASP). However, the utility of Doppler echocardiography in the workup of pulmonary hypertension extends far beyond that of a screening tool, with the integration of relevant Doppler echocardiography parameters providing a wealth of hemodynamic insight into not only if a patient has pulmonary hypertension, but why they have pulmonary hypertension. This review summarizes some of the recent advances in the use of Doppler echocardiography in evaluating the pathophysiology of pulmonary hypertension.

Recent findings

Distinguishing pulmonary hypertension related to pulmonary vascular disease (i.e. pulmonary arterial hypertension, pulmonary hypertension due to lung disease, or chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension; PHPVD), from those with left heart disease associated pulmonary hypertension (pulmonary venous hypertension; PVH) is crucial as workup and treatment options differ dramatically. Recent studies have identified easily obtainable Doppler echocardiography parameters that can reliably distinguish between PHPVD and PVH, allowing for rapid triage of patients with evidence of PHPVD to invasive right heart catheterization whiles avoiding invasive investigation and the inappropriate use of pulmonary hypertension specific therapy in patients with PVH.


This review highlights the importance of integrating two-dimensional and Doppler parameters in order to inform the clinician as to the hemodynamic cause of pulmonary hypertension, thus enhancing the diagnostic accuracy of Doppler echocardiography, rapidly identifying those with PHPVD and right heart dysfunction and assisting in triage of patients to further invasive hemodynamic assessment.

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