PVR Calculator - Pulmonary Vascular Resistance

Created by Dominika Miszewska, MD, PhD candidate
Last updated: Oct 11, 2020

Use this PVR calculator to determine the patient's pulmonary vascular resistance. What is PVR? Well, PVR helps to estimate the impact of pulmonary hypertension on heart function and determine the reason for any dysregulation.

Below, you can also find an article providing the normal PVR ranges, the Wood units meaning, and what is PVR's real-life use, such as diagnosing pulmonary embolism.

What is PVR? Pulmonary vascular resistance definition

Pulmonary vascular resistance (known as PVR in medical abbreviations) determines if there has been a change in the arteries that deliver the blood to the lungs.

A quick reminder - this type of circulation also exists under the name pulmonary circulation, and includes the unoxygenated blood that the right ventricle expels into the pulmonary arteries. Then perfusion/ventilation happens, and oxygenated blood from the lungs comes back into the left atrium via the pulmonary veins, to be sent around the body.

If the pressure in the pulmonary arteries and veins is too high, we have pulmonary hypertension. The right ventricle has to pump more forcefully to overcome that pressure and successfully push the blood into the pulmonary vessels. This may lead to right ventricle dilation - where the ventricle becomes too big, and therefore more power has to be put into pushing the blood. *As a result, we face right ventricular dysfunction and failure**, strongly related to decreased patient survival.

A similar concept to PVR is peripheral resistance, calculated from the systemic circulation.

Normal PVR ranges

Healthy PVR ranges vary between 100 and 200 dynes * sec/cm3 (or Wood's units). Sometimes we define a normal PVR as simply below 200 WU.

What may cause low PVR?

  • Drugs, vasodilators, which lower both pulmonary and peripheral resistance;
  • High blood pH, known as alkalemia;
  • Low PaCO2, hypocapnia; and
  • A lot of exercises

On the other hand, what are the reasons for high PVR, and thus pulmonary hypertension?

  • Drugs, vasoconstrictors;
  • Low PaO2, known under the term hypoxemia;
  • Low blood pH, acidemia;
  • High PaCO2, hypercapnia;
  • Atelectasis - the collapse of a lung due to a lack of oxygen exchange, also determined by AA gradient changes; and
  • Pulmonary embolism

PVR calculator formula

Once you know the PVR medical abbreviation use, how do you use it in practice? To calculate PVR you need three items: left atrial pressure (LAP), mean pulmonary artery pressure (MPAP), calculated similarly to mean arterial pressure for peripheral resistance, and cardiac output (CO):

PVR = 80 * (MPAP - LAP) / CO

If we focus on units:

  • MPAP is in [mmHg];
  • LAP is in [mmHg]; and
  • CO is in [L/min].

Therefore, for PVR it's dynes * sec / cm3, also defined as Wood units.

The normal values for each variable in the formula are as follows:

Normal value
Mean Pulmonary Arterial Pressure
10 - 20 mmHg
Left Atrial Pressure
6 - 12 mmHg
Cardiac Output
4 - 8 L/min

PVR calculation in practice

Let's put what we've learned to work with an example. We have a patient with suspected right heart failure. We want to check whether he has a normal pulmonary vascular resistance (again: known as PVR in medical abbreviation) or any pulmonary hypertension.

His results are:

  • Mean Pulmonary Arterial Pressure: 23 mmHg;
  • Left Atrial Pressure - 4 mmHg; and
  • Cardiac Output - 6 L/min.

PVR = 80 * (23 mmHg - 4 mmHg) / 6 L/min

PVR = 253.3 WU

The patient is above the normal PVR range, which suggests a heavy dysregulation of his pulmonary and circulatory capacity. Therefore pulmonary hypertension has already affected the heart.

Dominika Miszewska, MD, PhD candidate
Mean Pulmonary Arterial Pressure (MPAP)
Left Arterial Pressure (LAP)
Cardiac Output (CO)
Pulmonary Vascular Resistance (PVR)
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