What types of medical tests determine if I have damaged my heart by using Fen-Phen?
Heart valve damage can be detected by a Doppler “echocardiogram” (also known as an “echo”). An echo is an ultrasound of the heart, a non-invasive and painless procedure. Your primary care physician can refer you to a cardiologist who will schedule the test. Please note, an EKG is not adequate to determine valve damage.
PPH is diagnosed through a series of tests. First, a pulmonary function test is used to establish that there is hypertension. Then, a series of tests are given to rule out other potential causes for the hypertension. If no cause for the hypertension is found, the hypertension will be classified as “primary”- hence “primary pulmonary hypertension“. PPH is a very serious condition.
Neuropsychological damage is difficult to determine because of the inability to sample and analyze human brain cells. If there is serious concern over neuropsychological damage, a specialist in this area should be consulted.
These tests sound complicated and costly. Are they covered by insurance?
The heart valve and PPH tests can be expensive, but they are usually covered by insurance. A neuropsychological exam, unfortunately, may not be covered. Be sure to go through the proper referral process with your primary care physician and tell your doctor you are concerned about fen-phen usage. If you do not have insurance, you may want to seek out federal, town, or hospital based assistance.
If I do have damage to my heart, is it treatable?
Valve injuries are treatable through a range of methods depending on the severity of injury. For a slight valve impairment, your doctor may advise you to get yearly echocardiograms. As a preventative measure, your doctor may also advise you to take prophylactic antibiotics before any invasive medical procedures, including dental examinations. For more severe cases, valve repair or valve replacement surgery may be necessary.
PPH may be treated with oxygen supply, heart-lung transplantation, or drugs specially developed for PPH. The drug therapies are relatively new, and not all individuals are able to tolerate them.
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