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The diagnostic journey of pulmonary arterial hypertension patients: results from a multinational real-world survey.

BACKGROUND: Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a life-threatening, progressive disease often diagnosed late in its course.

OBJECTIVES: To present patient-reported data that were captured within a large, multinational, point-in-time survey of PAH-treating physicians and their patients to better understand the diagnostic journey.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey conducted in five European countries (EU5), Japan and the USA.

METHODS: PAH-treating pulmonologists, cardiologists, rheumatologists or internists (USA only) completed a patient record form (PRF) for the next four consecutive adult PAH patients they saw; these patients filled in a patient self-completion (PSC) form on an anonymous, voluntary basis. Our report focuses on patient data; data are from PSC forms unless stated otherwise.

RESULTS: Physician-reported PRFs and self-completed PSC forms were obtained for 1152 and 572 patients, respectively. Patients' mean (SD) age was 59.1 (14.0) years, 55.6% were female, and 57.3% had idiopathic PAH. Patient-reported data showed an average delay of 17.0 months between symptom onset and PAH diagnosis. This is longer than physicians estimated (13.8 months): this disparity may be partly due to the time taken by patients to consult a physician about their symptoms [9.6 months overall, longest in the USA (15.3 months)]. Most patients (71.6%) initially consulted primary care physicians about their symptoms and 76.4% of patients were referred to a specialist. Misdiagnoses occurred in 40.9% of patients [most frequent in the USA (51.3%), least common in Japan (27.6%)] and they saw an average of 2.9 physicians overall (3.5 in EU5 versus 2.0 in Japan/USA) before being diagnosed. Diagnosis was most often made by cardiologists (50.4%) or pulmonologists (49.3%).

CONCLUSION: Our data suggest that diagnostic delay in PAH results from patient- and physician-related factors, which differ across regions and include lack of awareness of PAH on both sides. Development of better screening strategies may help address this barrier to timely PAH diagnosis.

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