Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension – still evolving

Mario Gerges, Magdi Yacoub


Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) is one of the leading causes of severe pulmonary hypertension (PH). The disease is still underdiagnosed, and the true prevalence is unknown. CTEPH is characterized by intraluminal non-resolving thrombus organization and fibrous stenosis, or complete obliteration of pulmonary arteries, promoted by progressive remodeling of the pulmonary vasculature. One consequence of this is an increase in pulmonary vascular resistance and pressure, resulting in PH and progressive right heart failure, leading to death if left untreated.

Endovascular disobliteration by pulmonary endarterectomy (PEA) is the preferred treatment for CTEPH patients. PEA surgery is the only technique that can potentially cure CTEPH disease, especially in patients with fresh or organized thrombi of the proximal branches of pulmonary arteries. However, not all patients are eligible for PEA surgery. Recent research has provided evidence suggesting balloon pulmonary angioplasty (BPA) and targeted medical therapy as additional promising available treatments options for inoperable CTEPH and recurrent/persistent PH after PEA surgery.

Studies on BPA have shown it to improve pulmonary hemodynamics, symptoms, exercise capacity and RV function in inoperable CTEPH. Subsequently, BPA has developed into an essential component of the modern era of CTEPH treatment. Large randomized controlled trials have demonstrated varying significant improvements with targeted medical therapy in technically inoperable CTEPH patients. Thus, treatment of CTEPH requires a comprehensive multidisciplinary assessment, including an experienced PEA surgeon, PH specialist, BPA interventionist and CTEPH-trained radiologist at expert centers. In this comprehensive review, we address the latest developments in the fast-evolving field of CTEPH. These include advancements in imaging modalities and developments in operative and interventional techniques, which have widened the range of patients who may benefit from these procedures. The efficacy and safety of targeted medical therapies in CTEPH patients are also discussed. As the treatment options for CTEPH improve, hybrid management involving multiple treatments in the same patient may become a viable option in the near future.

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