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Wilderness medicine at high altitude: recent developments in the field

Authors Shah N, Hussain S, Cooke M, O'Hara J, Mellor A

Received 4 June 2015

Accepted for publication 3 August 2015

Published 24 September 2015 Volume 2015:6 Pages 319—328

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/OAJSM.S89856

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Prof. Dr. Andreas Imhoff


Neeraj M Shah,1 Sidra Hussain,2 Mark Cooke,3 John P O’Hara,3 Adrian Mellor3,4

1Division of Asthma, Allergy and Lung Biology, King’s College London, UK; 2School of Medicine, University College London, London, UK; 3Research Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK; 4Academic Department of Military Anaesthesia and Critical Care, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham, UK

Abstract: Travel to high altitude is increasingly popular. With this comes an increased incidence of high-altitude illness and therefore an increased need to improve our strategies to prevent and accurately diagnose these. In this review, we provide a summary of recent advances of relevance to practitioners who may be advising travelers to altitude. Although the Lake Louise Score is now widely used as a diagnostic tool for acute mountain sickness (AMS), increasing evidence questions the validity of doing so, and of considering AMS as a single condition. Biomarkers, such as brain natriuretic peptide, are likely correlating with pulmonary artery systolic pressure, thus potential markers of the development of altitude illness. Established drug treatments include acetazolamide, nifedipine, and dexamethasone. Drugs with a potential to reduce the risk of developing AMS include nitrate supplements, propagators of nitric oxide, and supplemental iron. The role of exercise in the development of altitude illness remains hotly debated, and it appears that the intensity of exercise is more important than the exercise itself. Finally, despite copious studies demonstrating the value of preacclimatization in reducing the risk of altitude illness and improving performance, an optimal protocol to preacclimatize an individual remains elusive.

Keywords: hypoxia, acute mountain sickness, acclimatization, biomarkers, preacclimatization

A Letter to the Editor has been received and published for this article.

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