Unexplained pulmonary hypertension in elderly patients

Brian P Shapiro, Michael D McGoon, Margaret M Redfield
Chest 2007, 131 (1): 94-100

BACKGROUND: Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH) preferentially affects young women. However, a subset of patients with IPAH is elderly. Our objective was to compare elderly (age >/= 65 years) vs younger persons with unexplained pulmonary hypertension (PH) and a presumptive diagnosis of IPAH.

METHODS: Clinical, echocardiographic, hemodynamic, and survival data were collected on consecutive patients with suspected IPAH after evaluation in a large tertiary center PH clinic.

RESULTS: Of 197 patients (mean age +/- SD, 52 +/- 16 years; 80% female), 48 patients (24%) were elderly. Elderly and younger patients had similar symptom severity, systolic pulmonary artery (PA) pressure (82.7 +/- 20.3 mm Hg vs 86.9 +/- 18.8 mm Hg, respectively; p = 0.21), and severity of right ventricular enlargement and dysfunction. Elderly patients had higher pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (PCWP) [15.3 +/- 7.3 mm Hg vs 11.1 +/- 5.3 mm Hg; p < 0.0001] and more frequently failed (56%) to meet hemodynamic criteria for IPAH (PH with PCWP < 15 mm Hg) than did younger patients (19%). Elderly patients also had higher systemic systolic (p < 0.0001) and pulse (p < 0.0001) pressures and more cardiovascular disease. Among those patients with normal PCWP, elderly patients had worse survival than young patients (p = 0.007). Among those patients with elevated PCWP, elderly patients had lower PA pressures (p = 0.04) and better survival (p = 0.02).

CONCLUSIONS: Elderly patients with clinically suspected IPAH often fail to meet hemodynamic criteria for IPAH due to elevated PCWP. Studies to define the proper diagnostic strategy and the safety and efficacy of pulmonary vasodilators in elderly patients with unexplained PH are needed.

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