Send to

Choose Destination
J Physiol Pharmacol. 2006 Sep;57 Suppl 4:431-42.

Chronic mountain sickness: the reaction of physical disorders to chronic hypoxia.

Author information

High Altitude Pathology Institute, La Paz, Bolivia.


Chronic mountain sickness (CMS) is a condition in which hematocrit is increased above the normal level in residents at high altitude. In this article we take issue with the "Consensus Statement On Chronic And Subacute High Altitude Diseases" of 2005 on two essential points: using a questionnaire to evaluate the symptoms of CMS to use the term "loss of adaptation" as opposed to "adaptation to disease in the hypoxic environment". We opine that CMS is rather an adaptive reaction to an underlying malfunction of some organs and no specific symptoms could be quantified. To substantiate our line of reasoning we reviewed 240 CMS cases seen at the High Altitude Pathology Institute in La Paz. Patients who had a high hematocrit (<58%) underwent pulmonary function studies in search for the cause of hypoxia: hypoventilation, diffusion alteration, shunts, and uneven ventilation-perfusion. The tests included arterial blood gas tests, chest x-rays, spirometry, hyperoxic tests, flow-volume curves, ventilation studies at rest and during exercise, ECG, exercise testing and doppler color echocardiography to assess heart structure and function. When correlated with clinical history these results revealed that CMS is practically always secondary to some type of anomaly in cardio-respiratory or renal function. Therefore, a questionnaire that tries to catalog symptoms common to many types of diseases that lead to hypoxia is flawed because it leads to incomplete diagnosis and inappropriate treatment. CMS, once again, was shown to be an adaptation of the blood transport system to a deficient organs' function due to diverse disease processes; the adaptation aimed at sustaining normoxia at the cellular level in the hypoxic environment at high altitude.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center