Why is pulmonary hypertension at high altitude so common and dangerous?

Everyone who climbs to high altitude will develop pulmonary hypertension, a temporary constriction of blood vessels that results in increasing strain on the right heart. It is a normal adaptive mechanism but if exaggerated can have serious consequences, resulting in life-threatening disorders and remodeling of the pulmonary circulation. Five mini-Review articles that comprise a Special Topic section in High Altitude Medicine & Biology, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers provide an up-to-date overview of the clinical management and biological processes that underlie this fascinating disorder. The articles are available free on the High Altitude Medicine & Biology website.

In the article "Hypoxic Pulmonary Vasoconstriction," Erik Swenson, University of Washington, Seattle, provides a broad overview of pulmonary hypertension and describes what advantages and disadvantages its development may offer in normal human physiology and disease and at high altitude.

Urs Scherrer and colleagues from University Hospital (Bern, Switzerland), Universidad de Tarapacá (Arica, Chile), and University Hospital of Lausanne (Switzerland) review studies in the literature aimed at understanding the mechanisms underlying pulmonary and identifying potential targets for drug therapy. These studies have focused on people with either acute or chronic exposure to high altitude, and on the potential role of epigenetic mechanisms that may lead to remodeling of the lung vasculature during fetal development or childhood. The authors describe potential new directions for drug development in the article "Mechanisms and Drug Therapy of Pulmonary Hypertension at High Altitude."

"An increased pulmonary artery pressure always occurs when the oxygen level in the lungs is reduced as occurs at high altitude," says John B. West, MD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of High Altitude Medicine & Biology and Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. "Although the effects may not be easily discernible, can be a factor in high altitude pulmonary edema and other diseases of high altitude."

More information: online.liebertpub.com/doi/full… 0.1089/ham.2013.1010

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

High-altitude research advances low-altitude medicine

May 04, 2010

High altitude medicine is a "natural research laboratory" for the study of cardiovascular physiology and pathophysiology. As such, it can shed light on conditions and diseases that mimic the low oxygen content of the atmosphere ...

Potential new approach to treatment of chronic lung diseases

Mar 26, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists at UCD have identified a potential new treatment for life-threatening complications associated with chronic obstructive lung diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Chronic obstructive ...

Recommended for you

19 new dengue cases in Japan, linked to Tokyo park

16 minutes ago

Japan is urging local authorities to be on the lookout for further outbreaks of dengue fever, after confirming another 19 cases that were contracted at a popular local park in downtown Tokyo.

Liberia's airport battles to contain Ebola

22 hours ago

With the last rays of sunlight speckling the departures area at Liberia's international airport, passengers queue patiently to go through medical screening designed to show up the Ebola virus.

User comments