The lungs contain several types of tissue. There is the conducting system, which includes the large and small airways. There is the lung tissue itself, which includes the little air sacs called alveoli which are important in gas exchange. Last, but not least, are the blood vessels that carry blood into and out of the lungs to the heart. All of these tissues (along with several others I did not mention) can have diseases associated with them. When we consider the blood vessels, the pressure inside these vessels, especially the so-called pulmonary arteries, can tell about the presence of disease and the patient’s response to our therapies.
Cardiologists are particularly interested in the pulmonary artery pressures, especially in patients who have or have had congestive heart failure. When the heart muscle fails the pressure in the pulmonary arteries goes up. Knowing when the pressures begin to rise in the pulmonary arteries can help physicians intervene early in heart failure preventing suffering and hospitalizations. Pulmonary physicians are also interested in pulmonary artery pressures in patients with pulmonary artery hypertension (PAH). Unfortunately, measuring the pressure in the pulmonary arteries is difficult. A new device has recently been approved that can help monitor pulmonary artery pressure. A sensor is implanted in a branch of the pulmonary artery and sends a signal to a receiver recording the pressure in the artery. This device, when routinely available, will be helpful to cardiologists and pulmonologists, and more importantly, our patients.