Pulmonary Hypertension Service

Lurie Children’s offers the Pulmonary Hypertension Service to care for children of all ages with pulmonary hypertension (PH). PH is a disease of the very small blood vessels within the lungs. When they become narrowed, scarred or clotted, it is more difficult for blood to pass through the vessels. The right side of the heart then has to work harder to pump blood through these vessels. Therefore, pulmonary hypertension affects not only the lungs, but the heart as well. Our service offer expertise from pulmonary medicine, the Heart Center and neonatology to develop individualized treatment plans for pediatric PH patients.

There are many reasons why pulmonary hypertension develops. Some of the most common causes in children are:

  • Premature birth
  • Prolonged mechanical ventilation
  • Certain types of heart disease
  • Diaphragmatic hernia
  • Sickle cell disease
  • HIV
  • Portal hypertension
  • Drug or toxin ingestion
  • Familial
  • Idiopathic (no known cause) 

The Lurie Children’s Difference

We provide comprehensive treatment to meet the needs of each patient. Pulmonary specialists collaborate with experts from across Lurie Children’s to provide the best care for each patient. Because certain conditions may cause PH in children, we work with the child’s treatment team to address the patient’s complete needs. We work very closely with experts from the Heart Center, as PH can affect the heart in addition to the lungs. We also believe in family-centered care, which means we involve the whole family in a patient’s treatment plan.

What to Expect

The signs and symptoms of pulmonary hypertension vary. In babies with congenital heart disease, babies who are on a ventilator or babies born with diaphragmatic hernia, the major symptoms are problems breathing or a large heart on chest x-ray. An echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) may also show a large right side of the heart.

Tests are used to diagnose PH in children include:

  • Labwork
  • Echocardiogram (echo) – ultrasound of the heart
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) – records the electric current in the heart
  • Six-minute walk test –assesses exercise ability in older children
  • Right heart catheterization – measures pressure in the heart

There are various methods of treating PH, including: 

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners)
  • Diuretics

Medications to help relax the blood vessels in the lungs, decreasing the blood pressure:

  • Inhaled medicines, such as nitric oxide and iloprost
  • Oral medications, which may include calcium channel blockers, sildenafil or bosenta
  • Intravenous medications, such as epoprostenol and treprostinil

Currently there is no effective way of preventing pulmonary hypertension from occurring. If it progresses without management and treatment, it can cause serious problems in both the lungs and heart. However, if it is caught early enough in children, in many cases it is manageable. New treatments have become available recently, which are significantly improving outcomes in patients with PH.

Our Specialists

The Pulmonary Hypertension Service at Lurie Children’s is made up of two physicians and one nurse practitioner. Steve Lestrud, MD, specializes in pulmonary medicine and critical care and Nicolas Porta, MD, specializes in neonatology. Jennifer Beier, RN, CPNP, is certified in pediatrics. Pulmonologists also work with our Heart Center specialists in fetal/neonatal medicine and cardiac critical care.

Make an Appointment

If you would like to make an appointment with our service, please contact us at 312.227.6750.


Your support is important in helping us continue to make a difference in the lives of patients and families. Lurie Children’s relies on philanthropic funding to enhance its programs, services and research for children. To learn more, please contact the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation at foundation@luriechildrens.org, call 312.227.7500 or make a gift today.