Testing and Diagnosis for Pulmonary Hypertension in Children

Measuring pulmonary blood pressure

  • A pediatric cardiologist or other physician will perform a physical examination, listening to your child's heart and lungs.
  • An echocardiogram (a test which uses sound waves to determine and structure and function of the heart) will sometimes, but not always, give an accurate idea of pulmonary artery pressure. This test is painless, takes about 30 minutes, and is easily performed in the doctor's office. In order to get the clearest images possible, it’s important for children to cooperate and hold very still. Children younger than 3 who are restless may be given a medication (a sedative) to help them relax during a length procedure.
  • Cardiac catheterization is a procedure that gives us very detailed information about the structures inside the heart muscle. In some cases, we may need your child to stay overnight in the hospital for this test.

Other tests your child’s doctor may order include:

  • Blood tests may help identify the underlying cause of the pulmonary hypertension as well as related medical conditions that occur as a result of the high blood pressure.
  • CT scans of the chest show the lungs in more detail than a chest x-ray and better detects certain problems.
  • Cardiac MRI is a non-invasive test that shows the structure and function of the heart without the radioactive radiation used in x-rays.
  • Pulmonary function tests measure breathing and lung capacity.
  • Ventilation and perfusion scans : oxygen and a special type of test medicine is inhaled or injected into a vein in your child’s arm to determine the path of air and blood flow within the lungs. Learn more about these tests. 

After all necessary tests are completed, experts at Boston Children’s Hospital meet to review and discuss what they have learned about your child's condition. Then we’ll meet with you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best treatment options.