Sonja Bartolome, M.D.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension became an interest for Sonja Bartolome, M.D., early in her career, when she was a medical intern.
“One night on-call, I admitted a young woman to the hospital who was born on the same day as I, yet had this debilitating disease about which I had learned very little in medical training,” Dr. Bartolome says. “I spent the night studying the problem and have been striving to help those with this disease ever since.”
Pulmonary hypertension is treatable, and it’s worth treating.”
A rare disease, pulmonary hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. The small blood vessels in the lungs “plug up” over time.
The right side of the heart, which pumps the blood through the lungs, then has trouble pumping against these plugged-up blood vessels. People who suffer from this disease have great difficulty breathing, as the right side of the heart begins to tire and eventually fail.
“By the time they come to see us, patients are usually short of breath most of the time and unable to live their lives normally,” Dr. Bartolome says.
Pulmonary hypertension is a chronic disease with no cure. Untreated, it can result in death within five years. But Dr. Bartolome and UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Pulmonary Hypertension team can help find the right treatment for each individual with this disease, which helps the person not only live longer but also have better quality of life.
“Our goal of treatment is to help our patients breathe well enough to get back to their lives. That could mean being able to leave the house, attend a yearly fishing trip, or get back to Zumba class,” she says.
UT Southwestern has one of the largest pulmonary hypertension centers in the country. Dr. Bartolome and her colleagues see more cases of pulmonary hypertension than most other doctors. As a result, they offer experience and specialized care not available in many parts of the country.
Named a Rising Star by Texas Monthly in 2012 and 2013, Dr. Bartolome also helps develop better treatment options for pulmonary hypertension patients through clinical trials. UT Southwestern often participates in as many as 20 clinical trials at once to try to find new and better ways to treat this progressive disease.
In addition to her work with pulmonary hypertension patients, Dr. Bartolome specializes in the pulmonary complications of liver disease. Patients with liver disease may develop pulmonary hypertension, low oxygen levels, fluid around the lungs, and heart problems.
As the Director of a new abdominal transplant critical care team, she also works with a multispecialty team to help guide patients with liver disease through a process to qualify for a liver and then go through their liver transplantation.
Whether working to improve the care of patients with pulmonary hypertension or with liver disease, Dr. Bartolome is committed to providing cutting-edge, compassionate care for those with chronic illness.