Background: The effects of pulmonary arterial hypertension on cardiovascular and physical function are well documented. Limited information exists regarding the effects of pulmonary arterial hypertension on cognitive function despite patient reports of problems with memory and attention. Our primary purpose was to determine if a prospectively identified cohort of pulmonary arterial hypertension patients had cognitive sequelae. Our secondary purpose was to determine the relationships between cognitive sequelae and neuropsychological test scores with depression, anxiety, and quality of life.
Methods: Forty-six adults with pulmonary arterial hypertension underwent assessment of cognitive function, depression, anxiety, and quality of life using standardized neuropsychological tests and questionnaires. The patients' scores were compared to normal population data. Medical, affective, neuropsychological, and quality of life data for patients with and without cognitive sequelae were compared using analysis of variance, Chi-square, or Fisher exact tests for categorical data. Correlations assessed relationships between neuropsychological test scores, depression, anxiety, quality of life, and medical data.
Results: Cognitive sequelae occurred in 58% (27/46) of the pulmonary arterial hypertension patients. Patients with cognitive sequelae had worse verbal learning, delayed verbal memory, executive function, and fine motor scores compared to patients without cognitive sequelae. Twenty-six percent of patients had moderate to severe depression and 19% had moderate to severe anxiety. Depression, anxiety and quality of life were not different for patients with or without cognitive sequelae. Our patients had decreased quality of life, which was associated with worse working memory.
Conclusion: Patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension have cognitive impairments, depression, anxiety, and decreased quality of life. Depression, anxiety, and quality of life were similar for patients with cognitive sequelae compared to those without cognitive sequelae. Decreased quality of life was associated with worse verbal and working memory. Clinicians should be aware of adverse brain related outcomes in PAH patients. Attention to proximal determinants and possible interventions to prevent or reduce cognitive and emotional morbidity and decreased quality of life are warranted and should be an emphasis in outcomes research.