Hypoxic ventilatory response during rest and exercise after a Himalayan expedition

  • J. M. Steinacker
  • A. Halder
  • Y. Liu
  • A. Thomas
  • M. Stauch
Original Article


Hypoxic ventilatory response (HVR) was examined before and after acclimatization to high altitude. Transient hyperoxic switches according to Dejours's technique were used to examine the contribution of HVR to the hyperpnoea of increasing exercise intensities. Ten mountaineers were exposed to hypoxia (oxygen fraction in inspired gas,F 1O2 = 0.11, 79 mmHg) before the expedition and after return from altitude (56 days, 30 days at 4900 m or higher). After 25-min breathing hypoxic gas, the subjects performed a maximal cycle ergometer test (increments 50 W per 5 min). Respired gases and ventilation\((\dot V_E )\) were analysed breath-by-breath, partial pressure of oxygen (PO2) and oxygen saturation (SO2) were measured in capillary blood. The HVR was tested by switching two breaths to anF 1O2 of 1.0. The nadir of\(\dot V_E \) after the switch was measured (decrease in ventilation, D\(\dot V_E \)). The HVR was expressed as the D\(\dot V_E \) at a PO2 of 40 mmHg (D\(\dot V_{E40} \)) and the D\(\dot V_E \) versus decrease ofSO2 (D\(\dot V_E \)/[100 −SO2]). The HVR estimated by D\(\dot V_{E40} \) increased from 19.9 to 28.01 · min−1 (median,P = 0.013). The HVR expressed as D\(\dot V_E \)/(100 −SO2) at rest was no different before and after acclimatization (0.89 and 0.86 l · min−1 · %−1, respectively) and during exercise it did not change before the expedition (0.831 · min−1 %−1). However, D\(\dot V_E \)/(100 −SO2) increased significantly with exercise intensity after the expedition (1.61 l · min−1 · %−1 at 200 W). The changes of D\(\dot V_E \) versusSO2 as well as of D\(\dot V_E \) versus\(\dot V_E \) were steeper after the expedition than before. In summary, after return from 30 day at high altitude, an increased HVR was observed. The augmentation of HVR was evident at higher exercise intensities and we suggest that this reflects a change in sensitivity of the peripheral chemoreflex loop.

Key words

Peripheral chemoreceptors Hypoxic ventilatory response Altitude acclimatization High altitude 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barnard P, Andronikou S, Pokorski M, Smatresk S, Mokashi A, Lahiri S (1987) Time-dependent effect of hypoxia on carotid body chemosensory function. J Appl Physiol 63:685–691PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Beaver WL, Lamarra N, Wasserman K (1981) Breath-by-breath measurement of true alveolar gas exchange. J Appl Physiol 51:1662–1675PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. van Beek JHGM, Berkenbosch A, Goede J de, Olievier CN (1984) Effects of brain stem hypoxaemia on the regulation of breathing. Respir Physiol 57:171–188PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bryne-Quinn E, Weil JV, Sodal IE, Filley GF, Grover RF (1971) Ventilatory control in the athlete. J Appl Physiol 30:91–98Google Scholar
  5. Dejours P (1962) Chemoreflexes in breathing. Physiol Rev 42:335–358PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Dempsey JA, Forster HV, Birnbaum ML, Reddan WG, Todden J, Grover RF, Rankin J (1972) Control of exercise hyperpnea under varying durations of exposure to moderate hypoxia. Respir physiol 16:213–231PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dempsey JA, Mitchell GS, Smith CA (1984) Exercise and chemoreception. Am Rev Respir Dis [Suppl] 129:531–534Google Scholar
  8. Easton PA, Slykerman LJ, Anthonisen NR (1988) Recovery of the ventilatory response to hypoxia in normal adults. J Appl Physiol 64:521–528PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Eldrige FL, Millhorn DE, Kiley JP, Waldrop TG (1985) Stimulation by central command of locomotion, respiration and circulation during exercise. Respir Physiol 59:313–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Forster GV, Pan L (1994) The role of the carotid chemoreceptors in the control of breathing during exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 26:328–336PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Forster HV, Dempsey JA, Birnbaum ML, Reddan WG, Thoden J, Grover RF, Rankin R (1971) Effect of chronic exposure to hypoxia on ventilatory response to CO2 and hypoxia. J Appl Physiol 31:586–592PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Griffiths, TL, Henson LC, Whipp BJ (1986) Influence of inspired oxygen concentration on the dynamics of the exercise hyperpnoea in man. J Physiol 380:387–403PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Hoppeler H, Desplanches D (1992) Muscle structural modifications in hypoxia. Int J Sports Med [Suppl 1] 13:566–5168Google Scholar
  14. Lee LY, Milhorn HT (1975) Central ventilatory responses to O2 and CO2 at three levels of carotid chemoreceptor stimulation. Respir Physiol 25:319–333PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lefrançois R, Gautier H, Pasquis P (1968) Ventilatory drive in acute and chronic hypoxia. Respir Physiol 4:217–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Levine BD, Friedman DB, Engfred K, Hanel B, Kjaer M, Clifford PS, Secher NH (1992) The effect of normoxic or hypoxic endurance training on the hypoxic ventilatory response. Med Sci Sports Exerc 24:769–775PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Lugliani R, Whipp BJ, Brinkman J, Wasserman K (1971) Effect of bilateral carotid-body resection on ventilatory control at rest and during exercise in man. N Engl J Med 285:1105–1111PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. MacDonald JW, Ward SA, Whipp BJ (1990) Prediction of peripheral chemoreceptor ventilatory drive during heavy exercise in humans. J Physiol (Lond) 430:92PGoogle Scholar
  19. Martin BJ, Weil JV, Sparks KE, McCullough RE, Grover RF (1978) Exercise ventilation correlates positively with ventilatory chemoresponsiveness. J Appl Physiol 54:557–564Google Scholar
  20. Masson RG, Lahiri S (1974) Chemical control of ventilation during hypoxic exercise. Respir Physiol 22:241–262PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Paterson DJ, Nye PCG (1991) Effect of oxygen on potassium-exited ventilation in the decerebrate cat. Respir Physiol 31:217–230Google Scholar
  22. Sato M, Severinghaus JW, Powell FL, Xu FD, Spellman MJ (1992) Augmented hypoxic ventilatory response in men at altitude. J Appl Physiol 73:101–107PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Sato M, Severinghaus JW, Bickler P (1994) Time course of augmentation and depression of hypoxic ventilatory responses at altitude. J Appl Physiol 77:313–316PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Schoene RB (1982) Control of ventilation in climbers to extreme altitude. J. Appl Physiol 53:886–90PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Schoene RB, Lahiri S, Hackett PH, Peters RM, Milledge JS, Pizzo CJ, Sarnquist FH, Boyer SJ, Graber DJ, Maret KH, West JB (1984) Relationship of hypoxic ventilatory response to exercise performance on Mount Everest. J Appl Physiol 56:1478–1483PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Steinacker JM, Röcker K, Stanch M (1991) Anaerobic threshold and ventilatory sensitivity for hypoxemia. In: Bachl N, Graham TE, Löllgen H (eds) Advances in ergometry. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 243–247Google Scholar
  27. Steinacker JM, Halder A, Liu Y, Böning D, Thomas A, Stauch M (1993) Lactate and maximum oxygen uptake during normoxic and hypoxic exercise before and after an Himalaya expedition (abstract). In: Sutton JR, Houston CS, Coates G (eds) Hypoxia and molecular medicine. Queen Printers, Burlington, Vt., p 314Google Scholar
  28. Stockley RA (1978) The contribution of the reflex hypoxic drive to the hyperpnoea of exercise. Respir Physiol 35:79–87PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ward SA (1994) Assessment of peripheral chemoreflex contributions to exercise hyperpnea in humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc 26:303–310PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Ward SA, Whipp BJ (1989) Effects of peripheral and central chemoreflex activation on the isopneic rating of breathing in exercising humans. J Physiol 411:27–43PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Ward SA, Whipp BJ (1992) Influence of body CO2 stores on ventilatory-metabolic coupling during exercise. In: Honda Y, Miyamoto Y, Konno K, Widdicombe JG (eds) Control of breathing and its modeling perspective. Plenum Press, New York, pp 525–431Google Scholar
  32. Weil JV, Swanson GD (1991) Peripheral chemoreceptors and the control of breathing. In:Whipp BJ, Wasserman K (eds) Exercise. Pulmonary physiology and pathophysiology. Deccer, New York, pp 371–405Google Scholar
  33. Weil JV, Byrne-Quinn E, Sodal IE, Kline JS, McCullough RE, Filley GF (1972) Augmentation of chemosensitivity during mild exercise in normal men. J Appl Physiol 33:813–819PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Whipp BJ (1994) Peripheral chemoreceptor control of exercise hyperpnea in humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc 26:337–347PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. M. Steinacker
    • 1
  • A. Halder
    • 1
  • Y. Liu
    • 1
  • A. Thomas
    • 1
  • M. Stauch
    • 1
  1. 1.Abt. Sport- und Leistungsmedizin, Medizinische Klinik und PoliklinikUniversität UlmUlmGermany

Personalised recommendations