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UCLA Pediatric Cardiology


Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Program

The Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Program was initiated in 2005. It was established by Dr. Juan Alejos for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension both in children and adults. With the invaluable assistance of Dr. Jamil Aboulhosn of Adult Congenital Cardiology, Dr. Gary Satou of Pediatric Cardiology and Dr. Robert Kelley of Pediatric Critical Care, the program is rapidly developing as a leader in this arena. Providing extensive expertise in evaluation and medical management, this program has provided valuable hope to patients with this condition. The most advanced medical therapy is offered and the experience of the Adult Pulmonary Hypertension program is a major support. In conjunction with Dr. Aboulhosn, this program participates in extensive clinical research in this area.

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What is Pulmonary Hypertension?

Primary pulmonary hypertension
Pulmonary hypertension is the narrowing of the pulmonary
arterioles within the lung. The narrowing of the arteries creates
resistance and an increased work load for the heart. The heart
becomes enlarged from pumping blood against the resistance.
Some symptoms include chest pain, weakness, shortness of breath,
and fatigue. The goal of treatment is control of the symptoms,
although the disease usually develops into congestive heart failure. 

Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the arteries of your lungs. It happens when the lung's tiny arteries narrow or become blocked. To keep blood flowing through these narrowed blood vessels, pressure increases in the arteries, which makes the lower right chamber (right ventricle) of your heart work harder. Eventually your heart begins to weaken and fail. Pulmonary hypertension can occur by itself, but it is often caused by an existing disease. Treatments can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

Signs and Symptoms

The most common symptom is shortness of breath, first when you exercise and later while at rest. Other symptoms are:

  • Getting tired easily
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling in your legs
  • Blue lips or skin

What Causes Pulmonary Hypertension?

Sometimes there is no known cause. When that is the case, the condition is called idiopathic pulmonary hypertension. If another medical condition is causing the problem, it is called secondary pulmonary hypertension. Conditions that can lead to pulmonary hypertension include the following:

  • Heart disease
  • Mitral stenosis or regurgitation
  • Certain kinds of lung disease
  • Obesity, especially with sleep apnea
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • High altitude
  • Left-side heart failure
  • Sickle cell anemia

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Your health care provider will give you a thorough examination and order laboratory tests to diagnose your condition. You may have an x-ray or electrocardiogram (ECG). Other tests may include an echocardiogram, heart catheterization, lung scan, computerized tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

Treatment Options

If your pulmonary hypertension is the result of another condition, that disease must be treated. You must avoid too much physical stress or exercise, although mild regular exercise may help reduce symptoms like shortness of breath. Ask your doctor to create an exercise plan for you. If your disease has progressed, your doctor may recommend you have a lung or heart lung transplantation.

Learn more

Visit our health encyclopedia to learn more about Pulmonary Hypertension »

Visit our Heart Health Center to learn more about Pulmonary Hypertension »


Our Expert Team

Juan Alejos, MD

Robert Kelly, MD

Gary Satou, MD

Ashley Wann, RN


Contact Us

(310) 825-5296

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