Survival rates for patients with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH) have improved with the introduction of PAH-specific therapies. However, the time between patient-reported onset of symptoms and a definitive diagnosis of IPAH is consistently delayed. We conducted a retrospective, multi-center, descriptive investigation in order to (a) understand what factors contribute to persistent diagnostic delays, and (b) examine the time from initial symptom onset to a definitive diagnosis of IPAH. Between January 2007 and December 2008, we enrolled consecutively diagnosed adults with IPAH from four tertiary referral centers in Australia. Screening of patient records and "one-on-one" interviews were used to determine the time from patient-described initial symptoms to a diagnosis of IPAH, confirmed by right heart catheterization (RHC). Thirty-two participants (69% female) were studied. Mean age at symptom onset was 56 ± 16.4 years and 96% reported exertional dyspnea. Mean time from symptom onset to diagnosis was 47 ± 34 months with patients subsequently aged 60 ± 17.3 years. Patients reported 5.3 ± 3.8 GP visits and 3.0 ± 2.1 specialist reviews before being seen at a pulmonary hypertension (PH) center. Advanced age, number of general practitioner (GP) visits, heart rate, and systolic blood pressure at the time of diagnosis were significantly associated with the observed delay. We found a significant delay of 3.9 years from symptom onset to a diagnosis of IPAH in Australia. Exertional dyspnea is the most common presenting symptom. Current practice within Australia does not appear to have the specific capacity for timely, multi-factorial evaluation of breathlessness and potential IPAH.
Keywords: diagnosis; epidemiology; pulmonary arterial hypertension; pulmonary hypertension.