Noninvasive diagnostics including electrocardiograms can help identify patients have a high or low probability of developing pulmonary hypertension (PH).

Researchers at the Medical University of Graz in Austria examined the medical records of 394 patients who had a right heart catheterization procedure (a typical diagnostic tool for PH) because of suspected PH, and discovered that right axis deviation on an electrocardiogram (ECG) predicted lung hypertension in 93% of them. Right axis deviation is often considered a chronic finding in patients with lung disease.

A combination of non-right axis ECG deviation, low levels of the heart disease marker NT-proBNP (N-terminal pro brain natriuretic peptide), good oxygen saturation of the blood, and WHO functional class I or II could rule out the possibility of PH with a probability of 96%.

“Our suggested two-step algorithm recognizes patients with either a very high or a very low probability for pulmonary hypertension in nearly half of the patients at risk for PH. This result can be achieved by the systematic use of four simple, non-invasive parameters: right axis deviation in ECG, SO2 (arterial oxygen saturation), NT-proBNP and WHO functional class,” the researchers concluded.

“We believe that our results may be useful for guiding the decisions towards specific diagnostics in individual patients at risk for pulmonary hypertension.”