Cardiovascular Institute

Patient Stories

Pulmonary Hypertension Patient Story

Jean Magazzu

"The care I received from AGH's doctors and nurses was fabulous."

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Pulmonary Hypertension

The Cardiovascular Institute has one of the most renowned programs in the country for diagnosing and treating both pulmonary hypertension (PH) and chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH). Our physicians’ depth and breadth of experience ensures that you will receive first-rate, comprehensive care in treating these diseases. They perform the most complex procedures, utilize the latest surgical techniques are continually researching even more promising methods for treating PH and CTEPH.

Pulmonary hypertension occurs when the arteries in your lungs (pulmonary arteries) become narrowed, hard or damaged. This forces your heart to work harder to pump blood through your lungs, raising the pressure in those arteries. Over time, this serious disease becomes progressively worse as the heart weakens, fails to work properly and eventually fails.

Although there is no cure for pulmonary hypertension, treatments can help to minimize symptoms and improve your quality of life. Physicians at the Cardiovascular Institute are currently researching and developing new treatments that could give you access to even more options and more hope. 

Innovative Treatment for Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension (CTEPH)

CTEPH is an extremely serious condition caused by old blood clots, or pulmonary embolism. In most patients who develop blood clots, blood thinners are enough to restore blood flow to the lung and prevent developing pulmonary hypertension.

But some people do not respond to blood thinners and may develop CTEPH. In these patients, large blood clots obstruct the network of pulmonary arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs, ultimately resulting in high blood pressure and heart failure. It is also possible for patients to develop CTEPH without any history of a blood clot, or from multiple small clots over a long period of time.

CTEPH is often difficult to diagnose because its primary symptom in the early stages – shortness of breath – can signify a variety of conditions. As the degree of the pulmonary blockage progresses, however, additional debilitating symptoms may appear due to stress placed on the right side of the heart as it struggles to push blood through the blocked area and oxygenation of the blood is diminished. Those symptoms may include:

• Shortness of breath
• Exercise intolerance
• Water retention in the limbs (edema)
• Chest pain
• Heart palpitations
• Light-headedness and fainting (syncope)
• Dry cough


The Cardiovascular Institute is one of only a few U.S. medical centers with the expertise to perform a uniquely innovative surgery for patients suffering with CTEPH. The highly innovative surgical procedure, known as pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PTE), involves removing large, life-threatening blood clots and extensive scar tissue from a patient’s lungs.

Studies show that five-year survival following PTE is approximately 75 percent in a patient group whose life expectancy without surgery is often just a few years. In our first year of performing the surgery, we observed highly successful outcomes, with patients’ pulmonary pressures returning to normal and their quality of life improving dramatically. 

Why the Cardiovascular Institute?

Expertise and teamwork
For more than half of a century, our heart physicians have been leaders in cardiac care. The Allegheny Health Network Cardiovascular Institute’s success rates for heart procedures exceed national averages and consistently rank among the best in in the region. We have been recognized as being among the best in the country by Thompson Reuters, U.S. News and World Report, and the American Heart Association.

Innovative, groundbreaking treatments
Treatments for heart disease have become more effective over the last several decades because of forward-thinking physicians with creative ideas. And CVI doctors help lead the way in developing and implementing these advances. We use cutting-edge diagnostic equipment and technology to find even the smallest heart abnormality, perform the most innovative techniques and surgeries to treat any heart condition, and use novel medications that treat your disease while maintaining your quality of life.

Personalized care and attention
At the Cardiovascular Institute, your care is all about you. We understand that every heart patient has different needs, circumstances and challenges and that no one treatment plan is suited for every patient. Our specialists collaborate to develop an in-depth medical strategy specific to each patient’s condition and situation. While receiving any heart-care service from us, this dedicated team works diligently to provide you with quality, compassionate and reassuring care.

Progressive research
We continually conduct new research that leads to even better ways to prevent, find and treat heart disease. Many of our patients are suitable candidates for these novel devices and clinical trials, giving them even more promising results for their heart health.

Care close to home
We know how important your time is, so we have made specialized heart care convenient for you to reach. Through our network’s seven hospitals and 20 outpatient cardiovascular offices, you can receive tests, treatments, procedures and overall heart care close to your home and in comfortable surroundings.

Find out more about this specialty at a location near you.