Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) is a rare condition characterized by increased pressure and constriction of the pulmonary arteries and the surrounding veins, which in turn applies excess pressure to the right side of the heart. It is a progressive condition that worsens with time if left untreated. The main causes for PH include congestive heart failure, congenital cardiac defects, chronic lung disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and rheumatoid arthritis, among others.
Recent in-vitro research on animal models and mammalian cells to test for novel therapeutic options for pulmonary hypertension have proven somewhat successful, suggesting that next-generation experimental therapies for PH are moving through the drug development pipeline for those who are currently diagnosed with the disease. However, a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that the research and development for PH may not be progressing as quickly as the rise of the disease itself in the world’s population.
In a study published in the April issue of the online journal CHEST, a survey was conducted by analyzing the statistical data from an updated list of hospitalization and death rates of people diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension between 2001 and 2010. The mortality data for the report was accessed via the national Vital Statistic System and the National Hospital Discharge Survey.
According to Mary George, MD, a researcher with the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the CDC and the lead author of the study, “Increases in hospitalizations may reflect both improved recognition of pulmonary hypertension as well as an increase in treatment options.” In this way, the study data suggests that PH may not be increasing in prevalence, but rather the diagnostics and treatment options are helping medical practitioners to identify the disease earlier and more often.
The key findings from the study include:
- Death rates from the disease rose more significantly for women at 2.5% per year compared with a 0.9% per year increase for men.
- Pulmonary hypertension death rates in those aged 85 and older increased more than 65% between 2001 and 2010.
- Approximately 4 in 10 deaths associated with pulmonary hypertension occur among patients under 75 years old.
- Hospitalization rates for women increased 52% while those of men increased 33% during the years studied. Women typically have a higher rate of connective tissue disease.
- Women accounted for 61% of all pulmonary hypertension hospitalizations in 2001-02 and 63% in 2009-2010.
- Congestive heart failure was the most commonly reported principal diagnosis at discharge, followed by other heart diseases (including pulmonary hypertension) and chronic and unspecified bronchitis.
- Over the past decade, death rates for black patients were approximately 40% higher than white patients.
It can be concluded from these findings that the general trend for pulmonary hypertension marks a palpable rise in the rates of hospitalization and mortality for the disease across a broad spectrum of demographics, which could be a key factor in identifying the need to employ improved therapeutic strategies to combat PH. According to Dr. Richard S. Irwin, MD, Master FCCP, and editor in chief, CHEST, “It is essential information to aid clinicians in understanding the age, race, and gender differences in patients who are at risk for pulmonary hypertension.”