Significance of main pulmonary artery dilation on imaging studies

Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2014 Dec;11(10):1623-32. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201406-253PP.


Proper and early identification of patients who harbor serious occult illness is the first step in developing a disease-management strategy. Identification of illnesses through the use of noninvasive techniques provides assurance of patient safety and is ideal. PA dilation is easily measured noninvasively and is due to a variety of conditions, including pulmonary hypertension (PH). The clinician should be able to thoroughly assess the significance of PA dilation in each individual patient. This involves knowledge of the ability of PA dilation to accurately predict PH, understand the wide differential diagnosis of causes of PA dilation, and reverse its life-threatening complications. We found that although PA dilation is suggestive of PH, data remain inconclusive regarding its ability to accurately predict PH. At this point, data are insufficient to place PA dilation into a PH risk-score equation. Here we review the causes and complications of PA dilation, define normal and abnormal PA measurements, and summarize the data linking its association to PH, while suggesting an algorithm designed to assist clinicians in patient work-up after recognizing PA dilation.

Keywords: pulmonary arterial hypertension; pulmonary artery diameter; pulmonary artery enlargement.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Catheterization
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Dilatation, Pathologic / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / diagnosis*
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Pulmonary Artery / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pulmonary Artery / pathology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed