Pulmonary hypertension

How is pulmonary hypertension diagnosed?

Pulmonary hypertension can be difficult to diagnose, because the symptoms are similar to many other heart and lung conditions. Most people will have a range of tests to get an accurate diagnosis.

Your GP will refer you to a hospital heart or lung clinic for tests, and if health care professionals there think you may have pulmonary hypertension, you will be referred to a specialist centre for pulmonary hypertension.

Tests for pulmonary hypertension include:

Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram, often called an echo, uses ultrasound to show how your heart is working. An echo can give a rough estimate of the pressure in your pulmonary arteries and how well the chambers of the heart are working. It can also tell you if you have been born with problems (called ‘congenital’) with your heart that may cause pulmonary hypertension.

Right heart catheterisation

This is the definitive test. It gives accurate information about blood pressure in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries. It’s used to confirm a diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension. A long, thin, flexible tube is inserted into a vein in your groin or neck, and fed through to your pulmonary artery. You might need to stay in hospital for a few days for this procedure and other tests.

Other tests you might have are:

  • an electrocardiogram or ECG. This records the electrical activity of your heart. It provides evidence of a possible problem with the heart’s rhythm
  • blood tests
  • lung function and breathing tests
  • a sleep study to measure oxygen levels, heart rate and breathing patterns while you’re asleep.
  • other types of scan. These may include:
    • a CT scan of your lungs to look for lung disease and blood clots
    • a V/Q scan, which is a type of scan that looks specifically for blood clots
    • an ultrasound scan to look at your liver
    • an MRI scan to look at the function of your heart
  • exercise or walking tests

Next: Treating pulmonary hypertension >

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Last medically reviewed: October 2018. Due for review: October 2021

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.