Pulmonary Hypertension in Children

April 13, 2023
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Pulmonary hypertension is rare, but it can be a life-changing condition for the people and families it affects. It’s normal to have questions and feel anxious about the future if you encounter or research this illness. If your child is dealing with pulmonary hypertension and any related lung conditions, learning about this condition and taking an active role in treatment can help you have the best possible outcome.

This easy-to-understand overview provides clear information on pulmonary hypertension in children, including the causes, treatment options, and long-term care considerations. We want to help you make confident care decisions for the health and happiness of your child.

What is Pulmonary Hypertension?

Pulmonary hypertension is a medical term for high blood pressure in the lungs. In general, hypertension refers to excessively high pressure on blood vessel walls by blood. When this occurs specifically in the blood vessels of the lungs, it can force the right side of the heart to work particularly harder. Over time this can cause the heart to become enlarged, and may lead to long-term heart damage.

Pulmonary hypertension can affect people of any age, including newborns, infants, and small children. It often develops in children who are born prematurely or with low birth weight.

Pulmonary Hypertension Causes

Pulmonary hypertension in children can be related to causes including congenital heart defects, genetic factors, and chronic lung diseases. A condition called bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which causes tissue damage in the lungs of prematurely born babies, can very often lead to pulmonary hypertension. In some cases, doctors cannot determine a cause for pulmonary hypertension.

Pulmonary Hypertension Risk Factors

Potential risk factors that can increase the risk of pulmonary hypertension in children include:

  • Viral illnesses
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Down syndrome

Pulmonary Hypertension Symptoms

Children with pulmonary hypertension often experience the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Blue discoloration of the lips, hands, and/or feet
  • Pale complexion
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Frequent fainting spells

These symptoms can also occur in more common and less severe conditions, so it’s important for children experiencing any of these issues to receive an accurate and prompt diagnosis.

Pulmonary Hypertension Complications

Many children with this condition also experience a higher likelihood of developmental delays and poor growth. If untreated, pulmonary hypertension can lead to potentially serious complications, including heart and lung failure.

How Doctors Diagnose Pulmonary Hypertension

To determine if a child has pulmonary hypertension, doctors typically take the following steps:

  • Discuss symptoms with family members
  • Review medical history of the child and family
  • Perform a physical examination, including listening to breathing and heartbeat
  • Order diagnostic imagery and testing such as echocardiogram, cardiac catheterization, and pulmonary vasodilator testing

Diagnosing pulmonary hypertension in children as early as possible is essential. Although it is not a curable condition, managing and treating the condition promptly can help improve symptoms and reduce the risk of serious complications.

Pulmonary Hypertension Treatment Options

There is a range of treatment options for pulmonary hypertension, including:

  • Oxygen supplementation, which can help oxygenate the blood, reduce the heart’s workload, and reduce blood pressure
  • Nitric oxide therapy, which helps to relax blood vessels but is only available at medical facilities
  • Oral medication which is specially formulated to reduce pulmonary hypertension and improve blood flow

Pulmonary hypertension is often a life-long condition, but many children born prematurely do experience significant improvement as they grow into childhood. It should be noted that children whose pulmonary hypertension does improve can still be at risk for redeveloping the condition later in life.

Caring for a Child with Pulmonary Hypertension

Children with pulmonary hypertension generally have ongoing care needs and require specialized treatment from different providers. Medications and oxygen therapy often need to be administered daily, and children may have specialized nutrition and modified activity needs. Children may also require developmental and emotional support and encouragement to manage complications associated with pulmonary hypertension successfully.

Pediatric home health services benefit many families and children managing congenital heart disease and chronic lung conditions such as pulmonary hypertension. By having a qualified and caring pediatric RN or LPN right in the home, children can get the help and support they need. Services can be personalized to fit the needs of any family, including assisting with medication, oxygen therapy, nutrition, activity supervision, and accompanying children to appointments.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help. We have been enforcing precautionary measures and following the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 to ensure the safety and health of our clients and employees.

Our home health care services offers one-on-one care in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.