Primary Pulmonary Hypertension

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Primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) is a somewhat rare type of lung disorder (one to three cases per million people) that is characterized by a dangerously elevated arterial blood pressure in the pulmonary artery. Normal pressure in the pulmonary artery ranges from 14 mmHg to 18 mmHg; primary pulmonary hypertension sufferers generally have a pressure that is 30% to 50% higher, ranging from 25 mmHg to 30 mmHg.

A higher-than-normal blood pressure in the pulmonary artery forces the heart to work much harder in order to pump sufficient quantities of blood into the lungs. Over time, the heart muscles begin to weaken, culminating in their eventual failure (heart failure).

The pulmonary artery is the major blood vessel that transports oxygen-poor blood from the right ventricle of the heart to the lungs. While in the lungs, blood from the pulmonary artery is oxygenized; carbon dioxide and other waste materials are released via exhalation. Oxygen-rich blood is then transported into the left ventricle of the heart, where it is pumped throughout the body.

Although primary pulmonary hypertension is capable of affecting man, woman and child, women between the ages of 20 and 40 make-up most of the 500 to 1,000 cases of PPH that are reported each year in the United States.

PPH Causes

PPH has typically been associated with a genetic predisposition to the disease. However, the lung disorder has recently been linked with the use of certain diet drugs, some of which include Fen Phen, Redux (dexfenfluramine) and Pondimin (fenfluramine). Studies have shown that use of the aforementioned diet drugs increases the likelihood of PPH development by as much as 28 times.

In addition to Fen Phen, other drugs have been associated with the potential development of PPH. GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia has been associated with causing a number of cardiovascular irregularities that could result in PPH. Patients taking Avandia are advised to consult with their physician to determine if they are an “at risk” patient.

In addition to causing primary pulmonary hypertension, the use of Fen Phen, Redux and Pondimin can also lead to the development of heart valve disease and/or heart valve defects. People suffering from heart valve defects can undergo a variety of treatments to repair the issue, including heart valve replacement surgery, valvoplasty (valvotomy) or medication.

PPH Symptoms

The onset of primary pulmonary hypertension is associated with the development of a wide variety of symptoms, some of which include:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Weakness
  • Ankle/extremity swelling
  • Dizziness

Most PPH symptoms are associated with there being less oxygen in the blood, a direct effect of a higher-than-normal blood pressure. Early symptoms of PPH may go un-noticed because of the fact that they are relatively minor. It may take several years after the development of PPH before the disease is actually diagnosed.

PPH Treatment

There are two types of PPH treatments. Palliative treatment options are used to treat the symptoms of PPH. A variety of other types of treatment are used in an attempt to slow the progression of the disease. However, there is no cure or treatment that is capable of wholly stopping the progression of primary pulmonary hypertension. PPH sufferers who do not undergo any type of treatment typically survive an average of five years with the disease before it causes heart failure.

A variety of drugs are used in the treatment of PPH, some of which include vasodilators, diuretics and anti-coagulants. Vasodilators widen/relax blood cells, allowing for blood to flow more easily. Diuretics lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. Anti-coagulants help to thin blood cells, making it easier for the heart to pump blood through the pulmonary artery.

People who have developed PPH, heart disease or a heart valve defect as a result of taking diet drugs like Fen Phen, Redux or Pondimin, have the right the file a defective drug claim against the negligent pharmaceutical companies who are liable for their condition.

Legal Action

Drug manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the safety and efficacy of their products before marketing them for public consumption. Failure to do so is considered negligent and grounds for pharmaceutical litigation. The Pensacola personal injury attorneys of Aylstock, Witkin Kreis & Overholtz handle national litigation across the United States for victims injured by defective pharmaceuticals and medical devices. They have successfully represented and obtained substantial compensation for a number of patients who have been harmed by drugs. Contact AWKO law today at (844) 794-7402 to get more information about your rights as a PPH injury victim.