Encyclopedia of Heart Diseases

2011 Edition
| Editors: M. Gabriel Khan

Altitude and Pulmonary Edema

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-60761-219-3_5


High-altitude  pulmonary edema (HAPE) is a noncardiogenic pulmonary edema that may occur in previously healthy individuals within the first 2–5 days after rapid ascent above 3,000–4,000 m. Severe shortness of breath occurs due to accumulation of fluid in air sacs of the lungs, and may occur in young, healthy, susceptible adults who ascend rapidly to altitudes in excess of 2,500 m.

Higgins and colleagues provided a review, which summarized the physiology and clinical evidence regarding acute altitude exposure on the cardiopulmonary system, and made practical recommendations for patients with cardiovascular disease.

A major preventive is slow ascent:
  • For ascent >3,050 m (10,000 ft), ascent should be ≤305 m (1,000 ft) daily with a rest every 1,000 m (3,300 ft) (Higgins et al. 2010).

  • The first symptom is usually  dyspneaon exertion and a reduced exercise tolerance greater than expected for the altitude. A dry and annoying cough later becomes productive with bloodstained sputum....

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