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Pulmonary Hypertension Research


Dr. Dunbar Ivy Listens to a toddler's heart while the child plays with a toy car.

As much as one might expect one of the world’s leading experts in pediatric pulmonary hypertension (PH) to tell an exciting story about his rise to renown, it's just not in the nature of Dunbar Ivy, MD, to be that dramatic.

"I came out here to Colorado, loved the mountains, loved my boss," he says of starting his career. "Studying pulmonary hypertension just seemed interesting."

This understatement fits Dr. Ivy, whose steady disposition can disarm parents who may be worried that their child’s vital organs seem to be failing them; after all, it wasn't until the 1990s that most children with PH survived.

That is, in part, thanks to Steven Abman, MD, and John Kinsella, MD, physicians at Children's Hospital Colorado who in 1991 successfully pioneered the use of nitric oxide to treat newborns with PH.

Dr. Ivy trained under Dr. Abman, and is now part of a select group of Children's Colorado PH experts on the forefront of clinical trials, research and treatment.

One of few accredited PH Care Centers in the nation

Their prominence in pulmonary hypertension was validated in 2015, when Children's Colorado became one of the first three pediatric hospitals in the country to receive accreditation as a PH Care Center from the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (more hospitals have since been accredited).

The rigorous evaluation considers patient volumes, available therapies, number of clinical trials and research, among many other factors. "This accreditation is a mark of excellence," Dr. Ivy says.

But the accreditation is more than an award. It's a beacon for parents of children with PH, who may not know where to go for hope for survival.

While leading the accreditation will certainly be a career highlight for Dr. Ivy, 25-plus years ago his motivation for studying a complicated, rare disease was much simpler: "I wanted to make a difference," he says. "There was this particular disease without a cure, and I wanted to help those patients."

"You can take a child who is not able to go to school or who is very limited, and by treating them appropriately, you can get them active again and back into a typical life."
- Dr. Dunbar Ivy

More about Dr. Ivy and pulmonary hypertension

  • Dr. Ivy was the first chairman of the pediatric working group at the World Symposium on Pulmonary Hypertension in Nice, France in 2013.
  • Pulmonary hypertension affects about 65 children per million; in cases where the cause is unknown, it can be as rare as one in a million.
  • Today, Children's Colorado is involved in almost every clinical trial of new medications for children with PH.
  • Dr. Ivy and his teams are working on several National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration funded grants to study the many facets of PH, including genetics, demographics and the biomechanical properties of pulmonary circulation.
  • Of the 120 pediatric heart surgery programs in the country, just five of them are accredited as pediatric PH Care Centers.

Learn more about our pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Program.