Pulmonary arterial hypertension: the most devastating vascular complication of systemic sclerosis

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Abstract

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a devastating vascular complication of a number of CTDs. In patients with SSc, PAH has a dramatic impact on prognosis and survival and is the single most common cause of disease-related death.Yearly echocardiographic screening for PAH is recommended in patients with SSc. If suspected, confirmation of PAH diagnosis by right heart catheterization is necessary. Treatment goals for patients with PAH associated with SSc (PAH-SSc) aim to slow disease progression and improve quality of life. Some measures used to gauge the effect of treatment in patients with PAH-SSc remain to be fully validated; the 6-min walk distance, for example, is a simple and reproducible means of assessing exercise capacity, but there exists a need to understand what constitutes a clinically relevant change in this specific patient population. Currently, pharmacological intervention in PAH-SSc may target one or more of three pathophysiological pathways in PAH. The prostacyclin analogue epoprostenol has been shown to improve exercise capacity and haemodynamics in PAH-SSc patients and similar data are available from smaller studies on trepostinil and iloprost. The dual endothelin receptor antagonist bosentan has been shown to improve exercise capacity and haemodynamics in PAH-SSc, and similar data have been obtained in small numbers of patients treated with the endothelin receptor A antagonists sitaxsentan and ambrisentan. Impaired production of nitric oxide may be addressed by inhibiting phosphodiesterase type-5 with sildenafil or possibly tadalafil. Combinations of multiple targeted therapies may be beneficial to this patient population.

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