Making the Correct Diagnosis and Formulating a Treatment Plan

Working with Your Doctor on Forming a Treatment Plan
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In order to properly treat your pulmonary hypertension (PH), it is essential to accurately diagnose the type of pulmonary hypertension that you have. Not all forms of pulmonary hypertension are treated in the same way. In fact, treatments that are helpful in some forms of pulmonary hypertension can actually make other forms of pulmonary hypertension worse.

In order to correctly diagnose you, your doctor will order a battery of tests that, when combined with the right heart catheterization, help the pulmonary hypertension specialist know the proper diagnosis. Sometimes the specialist may need to repeat tests that you have had in the past to provide an accurate assessment of your current state.

After your testing and right heart catheterization, you will meet back with your pulmonary hypertension team to go through the results and discuss a treatment plan. Two important questions will be answered.

  1. Do you have pulmonary hypertension?
  2. If so, what type?
  3. And now an important third question must be answered: What are the next steps in treatment?

Your PH team will then work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for your pulmonary hypertension. This plan may include prescriptions of medications as well as recommendations on exercise, nutrition (especially sodium and fluid), and sleep. If you are prescribed pulmonary hypertension vasodilator medications, the team will discuss with you the benefits and side effects of these medications. They will also work with you on programs to help with payment for these medications if needed.

As a part of making this treatment plan it is important to have your own goals in mind as you start this plan. For more on goal setting, see our next section.

After a treatment plan is established, it is routine for your pulmonary hypertension specialist to follow up with you in clinic approximately every 3 months with repeat testing like labs and a 6-minute walk test. They will also get lung function testing and an echocardiogram every 6 months on average. Sometimes your team will want to see you more often, especially early in the treatment. Alternatively, they may space out follow up visits if you are stable and doing well. It is important to realize that medications and routine follow up testing and visits are a part of living with pulmonary hypertension.

This information is intended for educational purposes only and not to be used to change or direct medical care. This information should not replace direction by your treating care team and all medical management should be directed by your PH treating physician and your care team.
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