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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2005 Feb 1;171(3):275-81. Epub 2004 Oct 29.

Sildenafil inhibits altitude-induced hypoxemia and pulmonary hypertension.

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  • 1Laboratoire Réponses cellulaires et fonctionnelles à l'hypoxie, Université Paris, Bobigny, France.


Exposure to high altitude induces pulmonary hypertension that may lead to life-threatening conditions. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the effects of oral sildenafil on altitude-induced pulmonary hypertension and gas exchange in normal subjects were examined. Twelve subjects (sildenafil [SIL] n = 6; placebo [PLA] n = 6) were exposed for 6 days at 4,350 m. Treatment (3 x 40 mg/day) was started 6 to 8 hours after arrival from sea level to high altitude and maintained for 6 days. Systolic pulmonary artery pressure (echocardiography) increased at high altitude before treatment (+29% versus sea level, p < 0.01), then normalized in SIL (-6% versus sea level, NS) and remained elevated in PLA (+21% versus sea level, p < 0.05). Pulmonary acceleration time decreased by 27% in PLA versus 6% in SIL (p < 0.01). Cardiac output and systemic blood pressures increased at high altitude then decreased similarly in both groups. Pa(O(2)) was higher and alveolar-arterial difference in O(2) lower in SIL than in PLA at rest and exercise (p < 0.05). The altitude-induced decrease in maximal O(2) consumption was smaller in SIL than in PLA (p < 0.05). Sildenafil protects against the development of altitude-induced pulmonary hypertension and improves gas exchange, limiting the altitude-induced hypoxemia and decrease in exercise performance.

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