Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension (CTEPH)

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A diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension (PH), or high blood pressure in the lungs, can be frightening and confusing. When you seek treatment at Duke, you have access to nationally ranked lung and heart teams equipped with the latest methods for diagnosing, treating, and controlling all types of pulmonary hypertension. These include pulmonary hypertension that’s hereditary, related to other medical conditions (such as scleroderma, lupus, liver disease, heart disease, HIV, or chronic blood clots), or caused by past medication or drug use. Using pulmonary rehabilitation, medications, surgery, and the latest research, we aim to prevent your condition from getting worse and help you maintain as normal a lifestyle as possible.

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Why Pulmonary Hypertension Treatment Is Important

Left untreated, pulmonary hypertension (in some cases called pulmonary arterial hypertension) can cause significant damage to your heart and lungs that can only be improved with a lung transplant or heart-lung transplant. While there is no cure for most forms of pulmonary hypertension, early diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve your ability to live with the disease. One type of pulmonary hypertension -- chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH), which is caused by old blood clots that have scarred the blood vessels leading to your lungs -- is potentially curable with surgery.

At Duke, our pulmonologists and cardiologists will review your health history and use sophisticated tools to confirm your diagnosis, identify what type of pulmonary hypertension you have, and help you determine what treatment will be most effective for you.

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Tests for Pulmonary Hypertension

Blood Tests

Blood tests that measure your blood oxygen levels, liver and kidney function, and other important indicators help us determine whether you have pulmonary hypertension and what treatments might be helpful if you do.

Chest Radiograph (X-ray)

Images of your lungs can reveal signs of pulmonary hypertension, including enlarged arteries and scarring.


An ultrasound probe is moved over the surface of your chest to capture moving images of your heart. This allows us to determine your heart’s chamber dimensions, shape, valve structures, and overall function. It also allows us to estimate the pressures inside the right chamber of your heart.


Small electrodes are placed on your skin to record your heart’s electrical impulses. This information helps us identify any abnormal rhythms, evaluate your heart function, and identify your risk for or prior heart muscle damage.

Cardiac Catheterization

A narrow, flexible tube called a catheter is threaded through a blood vessel to your heart to diagnose pulmonary hypertension and determine whether it has caused damage to your heart muscle.

Lung Function Tests

These tests measure how much air your lungs can hold, how much air moves in and out of your lungs, and your lungs’ ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Nuclear Lung Scan

A nuclear lung scan creates an image of air and blood flow in your lungs. This can be used to identify blood clots in your lungs that may contribute to your condition.

Six-Minute Walk Test

This test evaluates how well your body tolerates exercise and can help determine how severe your pulmonary hypertension is.

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Treatments for Pulmonary Hypertension

Oral Medication

Oral medications can help your heart pump blood, reduce excess fluid that puts pressure on your heart, and thin your blood to prevent blood clots.

Intravenous (IV) Medicines

IV drugs are shown to be the most effective in treating the blood vessel scarring that causes pulmonary arterial hypertension and in reducing the high pressure in your heart. These medications can provide relief from chest pain and shortness of breath.

Inhaled Medicines

We offer a variety of inhaled treatment options that help relieve shortness of breath. These include oxygen treatments, iloprost, and inhaled treprostinil.

Pulmonary Thromboendarterectomy (PTE)

This surgical procedure removes blood clots from the arteries in your lungs to help you breathe easier.

Lung or Heart-Lung Transplant

If your lungs and/or heart have been damaged by pulmonary hypertension despite treatments, you may be considered for a lung transplant. Duke is among the nation’s leaders in lung and heart-lung transplants performed each year.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Before, during, and after treatment, we offer supervised exercise, education, and medical management. We also give you the tools you need to exercise, eat right, quit smoking, lose weight, and make other lifestyle changes. The goal is to boost your lung function, improve your symptoms, and help you keep your pulmonary hypertension under control.

Why Choose Duke

Coordinated Team Care
We’re one of the few places in the nation where pulmonologists and cardiologists join forces to control pulmonary hypertension, which can affect your lungs and your heart. Your treatment team may also include pulmonary rehabilitation specialists, nurses specifically trained in pulmonary hypertension, and other health care professionals skilled in treating pulmonary hypertension. 

Recognized Experts
Duke is a Pulmonary Hypertension Association accredited care center. This designation recognizes our special expertise in pulmonary hypertension, particularly pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Access to Advanced Treatments
Our comprehensive database of the latest research on pulmonary hypertension ensures you receive the most effective treatments available. Our pulmonary hypertension team is actively researching the condition and ways to manage it, including new diagnostic tests and medications. 

CTEPH Treatment Expertise
If you have chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH), the curable form of pulmonary hypertension, you’ll benefit from our program that has been providing specialized medical and surgical care for this complex problem for decades.

Support Services
Our pulmonary rehabilitation program will help you learn about your condition and make lifestyle changes that will help you control your pulmonary hypertension and improve quality of life. Our staff can also work with your insurance company and drug companies to make your care easier.

Transplant Specialists
If you need a lung or heart-lung transplant, our transplant programs are among the nation’s largest, and our survival rates are among the nation’s best.

Best Hospital for Pulmonology and Lung Surgery in NC

Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our pulmonology and lung surgery program is nationally ranked, and the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

This page was medically reviewed on 10/30/2020 by