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What are the mechanisms of “Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension” in Dilated cardiomyopathy ?

Posted Feb 18 2012 10:13am

Pulmonary  arterial hypertension (PAH ) is  an uncommon manifestation of dilated cardiomyopathy .While pulmonary venous hypertension of some degree is expected in most patients with DCM,  it is rare for these patients to go for severe arterial hypertension.

The reason for this may be the  natural history of DCM do not allow these patients to live that longer to manifest severe PAH.  Still ,  we encounter this problem  atleast in tertiary hospitals. Presence of moderate to severe PAH (> 50mm peak PAP) is a sinister sign in  DCM. They not only do badly , they also make  the transplant outcome dismal .

What causes this severe   PAH in DCM ?  The following observations are made in our institute .

Now we know , isolated  systolic dysfunction is  rarely associated with PAH  .It is the presence of  LV diastolic dysfunction (Often restrictive )  that raises the pulmonary pressures.  PAH of DCM is rarely progressive.

One important suggestion is the DCMs  which are associated with  severe  PAH may indeed represent  late stages of RCM , when the LV begin to dilate.

Associated mitral regurgitation   contributes  to PAH

Atrial fibrillation has a significant impact on elevating  pulmonary  venous and arterial  pressures in DCM.

Hypoxic PAH can occur in any medical situation  in susceptible population . DCM is no exception

For some reason  idiopathic DCM is more often result in PAH than ischemic DCM . (Is that possibel , some form of  idiopathic   PAH and DCM are etiologically  related ?)

Further , the positive inotropic agents when liberally used will worsen the diastolic  properties of LV.

Finally involvement of  right ventricle  in the cardiomyopathy  process can have an ameliorating effect on PAH.  A good RV function is essential to lift the PA systolic pressure. If RV failure is causing a low PAP , do not be happy .It simply means RV is going to  say  good bye  . . .  for the final  time !

How to manage PAH in DCM ?

There is no specific management strategy .

We do not know yet  whether Sildenafil ,  Bosentan, and Epoprostenol  have any role in this  form of  PAH. These are all basically vasodilators. It’s use in DCM is vested with a risk of  catastrophic hypotension . Of course ,  we do have a role for balanced vasodilators in cardiac failure .(As most of these patients would be already on adequate ACEI )

Presence of PAH should be considered as an independent indication for anticoagulants as in situ  pulmonary thrombus is common.

The effect of  cardiac resynchronisation therapy in reducing the PAH of DCM is not convincing.

Final message

PAH  in DCM is an unwelcome development. It makes the situation  tough .  The mechanisms are diverse  .Understanding the mechanism would help us deal  this problem better .  Conventional anti failure treatment may help  ,but  it is wiser to try  reserve drugs.


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