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Pulmonary vascular disease has varying symptoms depending on the form of PVD your child has. Generally, shortness of breath is the primary symptom. Other symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Ankle and leg swelling
  • A cough
  • Anxiety

The severity of symptoms will depend on which form of PVD your child has. Conditions like a pulmonary embolism can occur more rapidly and lead to death sooner than pulmonary hypertension, which will have a gradual onset of symptoms.

When to See a Doctor

If your child has any of the symptoms of pulmonary vascular disease, especially persistent shortness of breath or cough, schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor. And if your child has other serious conditions and begins to demonstrate symptoms of PVD, seek immediate medical assistance.


Pulmonary vascular diseases are rare in children and are typically caused by congenital [kuhn-JEN-ih-TUHL] heart defects. PVD is often caused by some other serious condition, including:

  • Lung disease
  • Autoimmune [aw-toh-i-MYOON] disorder
  • Blood clot elsewhere in the body
  • Failure to absorb a blood clot
  • Congestive [kuhn-JEST-iv] heart failure
  • Damaged heart valves

There are some genetic risk factors for PVD and some research indicates it can be more common at higher altitudes and for children who are overweight.

Diagnosis and Tests

Your child’s doctor will conduct a physical exam and discuss your child’s personal and family medical history to determine if additional testing is needed. If your child’s doctor does suspect pulmonary vascular disease, they may recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • CT scan
  • V/Q scan (Ventilation Perfusion [ven-tl-EY-shuh n per-FYOO-zhuh n] )
  • Echocardiography [eh-koh-KAR-dee-oh-GRAM] (ultrasound of the heart)
  • Right heart catheterization [KATH-ih-tur-ih-ZAY-shun]
  • X-ray
  • Angiogram [ANN-gee-AW-gram]

The tests recommended will depend upon the severity of your child’s symptoms, any other serious conditions your child may have, and your child’s overall health and preference.


There are two primary methods of treatment for pulmonary vascular disease as listed below.

  • Medicine. Blood thinners or blood pressure medicine may be prescribed to control the pulmonary hypertension.
  • Surgery. Surgery may be needed to repair damaged arteries.

Your child’s treatment plan will depend on any other serious conditions your child has, your child’s overall health, and your child’s tolerance for taking medications.


The primary causes of pulmonary vascular disease in children, like congenital heart defects, can’t be prevented. However, some simple lifestyle changes that can help avoid risk factors for pulmonary vascular disease, including:

  • Avoiding exercise in high altitudes
  • Reducing your child’s blood pressure
  • Encouraging your child to eat a healthy diet

Talk with your child’s doctor or pediatrician if your child has a serious condition that might lead to pulmonary vascular disease to discover what steps you can take to avoid the development of PVD.

What are Pulmonary Vascular Diseases?

Pulmonary vascular [PUHL-moh-ner-EE VAS-kyuh-ler] diseases are a group of conditions that affect the blood flow to and from the lungs. The blood vessels between the lungs and heart they capture oxygen in the lungs and to be used by the rest of the body. . If this process is slowed or stopped, carbon dioxide can build up on the body, which can cause a number of problems. There are three basic types of pulmonary vascular disease, most of which are some form of pulmonary hypertension [PUHL-moh-ner-EE HI-pur-TEHN-shun].

  • Pulmonary arterial [ahr-TEER-ee-uh l] hypertension. This condition involves increased blood pressure in the arteries carrying blood to the lungs.
  • Pulmonary venous [VEE-nuh s] hypertension. This condition is increased blood pressure in the veins carrying blood away from the heart.
  • Pulmonary embolism [PUHL-moh-ner-ee EM-buh-liz-um]. A blood clot, usually from a deep vein in the leg, travels to the heart and is pumped into the lungs. This can also lead to a condition called chronic thromboembolic [throm-boh-EM-buh-lik] disease in which a blood clot is not absorbed completely in the lungs and causes other vessels around it to become diseased.

Pulmonary vascular disease is sometimes referred to as PVD, but should not be confused with peripheral [puh-RIF-er-uh l] vascular disease, which is a narrowing of the vessels supplying blood to the legs, arms, stomach, or kidneys.