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Imaging in pulmonary hypertension, part 1: clinical perspectives, classification, imaging techniques and imaging algorithm
  1. Caroline McCann1,
  2. Deepa Gopalan1,
  3. Karen Sheares2,
  4. Nicholas Screaton1
  1. 1Department of Radiology, Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, UK
  2. 2Pulmonary Vascular Diseases Unit, Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Deepa Gopalan, Department of Radiology, Papworth Hospital, Papworth Everard, Cambridge CB23 3RE, UK; deepa.gopalan{at}


Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is an uncommon condition associated with significant morbidity and mortality. It has diverse aetiology with differing clinical presentations, imaging features and treatments that range from surgical treatment of proximal chronic thromboembolic disease to targeted medical therapies in small vessel disease. Current classification of pulmonary hypertension (PH) is clinically based and groups diseases with similar pathophysiological mechanisms and therapeutic approaches. Groupings include conditions characterised by diffuse small vessel diseases such as idiopathic PAH, PH secondary to chronic hypoxic lung disease, left sided cardiac disease, chronic large vessel obstruction such as chronic thromboembolic disease and a miscellaneous group of diseases. The physiological manifestation of all of these diseases is increased pulmonary vascular resistance and PAH and while clinical features may provide a clue to diagnosis imaging plays a fundamental role in establishing a precise diagnosis and therefore guides therapy. A broad range of imaging modalities is available for the patient with suspected PH including chest radiograph, echocardiography, ventilation/perfusion scintigraphy, catheter pulmonary angiography as well as cross-sectional CT and MRI. Each modality has its strengths and limitations and different techniques may be used at different stages of diagnostic investigation and frequently complement each other. For example, while MRI and echocardiography permit cardiac structural and functional assessment, CT pulmonary angiography provides exquisite morphological information about the proximal pulmonary vasculature and lung parenchyma but little functional information. Modern cross-sectional imaging techniques (CT and MRI) hold the promise of a comprehensive evaluation of the heart, circulation and lung parenchyma in PH. The authors present a multimodality-imaging algorithm for the investigation of patients with suspected PH though it is acknowledged that there is some variation in practice depending on availability of resources and expertise.

  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • pulmonary arterial hypertension
  • imaging and pulmonary hypertension
  • classification of pulmonary hypertension
  • cardiovascular imaging
  • chest imaging
  • respiratory medicine (see thoracic medicine)
  • allergy
  • asthma
  • chronic airways disease
  • emphysema
  • radiology and imaging
  • CT
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  • This article is the first in a series of three on imaging in pulmonary hypertension.

  • Funding This work was supported by the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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