Oxygen Therapy for Pulmonary Hypertension
How is oxygen used to treat pulmonary hypertension? Pulmonary arterial hypertension affects the efficiency of a patient’s heart. The increased pressures in the pulmonary arteries cause the right side of the heart to work harder to pump blood through the lungs. The blood picks up oxygen while circulating through the lungs and returns to the left side of the heart. The left side of the heart then pumps the oxygenated blood to all of the organs in the body. The right ventricle becomes weakened from continuously working hard to pump against the increased pressure. A weakened right ventricle eventually leads to less blood being pumped through the lungs to pick up oxygen and eventually less oxygen being delivered to the organs throughout the body.
Supplemental oxygen therapy helps alleviate some of the stress on the heart and other organs caused by pulmonary hypertension. Oxygen is considered a medication and must be prescribed by a physician. Insurance companies have strict requirements for paying for oxygen and so your physician will have to document your oxygen saturations at rest and with exercise. Some patients require oxygen continuously, others just with exercise, and others just with sleep. It is important to wear your oxygen as prescribed as it is one of the simplest and most efficient therapies to improve the function of the heart.
(See Travel & Flying with Oxygen for information on travel and altitude tests if planning a holiday, regardless to whether you wear oxygen normally as you may need it when you fly).