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What is the importance of right heart catheterization?

RHC is considered the "gold standard" test for PAH. It is the only diagnostic test that can accurately provide the measurements needed to make sure the diagnosis is correct. It can also provide information that may help your doctor decide what type of treatment to prescribe.

For more information, download the Right Heart Catheterization brochure.

Diagnosing PAH

Why is pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) difficult to diagnose?

Unlike regular (systemic) hypertension, which can be detected using a blood pressure cuff on your arm, PAH requires special tests to diagnose. If your doctor thinks you may have PAH, he or she will schedule a series of tests to determine if your symptoms are the result of PAH or another illness.

How PAH is Diagnosed

What tests will my doctor order?

  • Echocardiography—a non-invasive procedure that uses ultrasound to create video images of your heart. An "echo" lets your doctor see how well your heart muscle contracts and relaxes and allows him or her to follow the flow of blood through the chambers and valves of your heart. The information can be used to estimate the blood pressure in your heart and the vessels of your lungs. The procedure can be performed in your doctor's office.
  • Right heart catheterization (RHC)—measures blood pressure in your pulmonary arteries and how much blood your heart can pump each minute. This procedure is required for an accurate diagnosis of PAH. This test is usually done in a hospital under light sedation, and takes about one hour.

What other tests might my doctor order?

The tests listed here do not necessarily represent all of the tests your doctor may want to order, or the sequence in which they may occur.