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St. Luke’s Opens Area’s First Pulmonary Hypertension Program

            St. Luke's Heart & Vascular Center has opened the area's first and only Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) Program, whose mission is to provide patients with expert and personal diagnosis, treatment, education and support for this serious medical condition involving the heart and lungs.

            Pulmonary hypertension is a progressive, lifechanging illness in which the heart strains to pump blood to the lungs through narrowed or blocked arteries, causing arterial blood pressure to rise abnormally. An estimated 25 million persons world-wide are living with pulmonary hypertension. If not treated early and accurately, this condition can worsen and cause the right side of the heart to work harder, become oversized and weakened and eventually to develop heart failure.

            In many cases, the cause of PH is idiopathic (unknown), though conditions like congenital heart disease, connective tissue disease, blood clots in the lungs, chronic lung disease, drug use and liver disease are also known to trigger pulmonary hypertension. Symptoms of the disorder include shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, swollen ankles, lightheadedness and fainting.

            Located in Bethlehem, St. Luke's Pulmonary Hypertension Program comprises one of the most experienced, expert, sought after and respected teams of PH and board-certified heart failure specialists, nurses and nurse practitioners in the Northeast United States.

            According to David Allen, DO, the program's medical director, "We treat patients using the latest medicines, procedures and other therapies, and educate them on modern, effective medical and lifestyle knowledge as they adjust to living with this chronic illness." 

            Lorie Seimes had been experiencing severe breathlessness and fatigue on her walks especially when she climbed stairs and went up hills. Frightened and frustrated, the 60-year-old Zionsville woman went to a pulmonologist, then a cardiologist, who sent her to Dr. Allen for an assessment, telling her, "He'll know exactly what's wrong."

            Dr. Allen diagnosed her with idiopathic pulmonary hypertension and prescribed a medicine that worked immediately by improving blood flow to her lung arteries. Now she says she's 80% improved, walking regularly again and grateful to Dr. Allen.

            "He saved my life," said the paraprofessional with the Upper Perkiomen School District. "I don't know where I'd be without him. He really cares about his patients." 

            Says Tracy Henninger, CRNP, nurse practitioner with the program, "Although a cure for pulmonary hypertension is rare, by working with the caregivers at the Pulmonary Hypertension Program, the symptoms and side effects can be limited and its progression slowed."

            The team collaborates with, and refers to, pulmonologists and other medical providers and programs, as necessary, to address issues that may arise during a patient's PH journey.






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