WHO's in second?: A practical review of World Health Organization group 2 pulmonary hypertension

Chest. 2013 Aug;144(2):638-650. doi: 10.1378/chest.12-2114.


World Health Organization (WHO) group 2 pulmonary hypertension (PH) due to left-side heart disease (ie, heart failure or left-sided valvular heart disease) is the most common form of PH in western countries. Distinguishing patients with WHO group 2 PH, particularly the subset of patients with PH due to heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), from those with WHO group 1 pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is challenging. Separating the two conditions is of vital importance because treatment strategies differ completely. Furthermore, therapies that are indicated for WHO group 1 PAH may be harmful in patients with WHO group 2 PH. We review the somewhat confusing PH nomenclature and the WHO classification system and rationale behind it. We then focus on left-side heart disorders that cause PH. An aging population and advances in the medical management of common cardiovascular disorders have caused the prevalence of heart failure to rise significantly, with more than one-half of patients having HFpEF. We review contemporary studies that focus on clinical and echocardiographic findings that help to distinguish HFpEF from PAH in the patient with PH. We discuss the typical, and sometimes atypical, hemodynamic profiles that characterize these two groups, review challenges in the interpretation of data obtained by right-sided heart catheterization, and highlight special maneuvers that may be required for accurate diagnosis. Finally, we review the largely disappointing studies on the use of PAH-specific therapies in patients with WHO group 2 PH, including the use of prostacyclins, endothelin receptor antagonists, and the more promising phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Echocardiography
  • Heart Failure / complications
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / classification*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / diagnosis*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / complications
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / physiopathology
  • World Health Organization


  • Antihypertensive Agents