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Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2019 Feb;29(2):223-231. doi: 10.1111/sms.13325. Epub 2018 Nov 8.

Impairment of left atrial mechanics does not contribute to the reduction in stroke volume after active ascent to 4559 m.

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University Institute of Sports Medicine, Prevention and Rehabilitation and Research Institute of Molecular Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, Paracelsus Medical University, Salzburg, Austria.
Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and General Critical Care Medicine, Salzburg General Hospital, Paracelsus Medical University, Salzburg, Austria.
Medical Clinic VII, Sports Medicine, Translational Lung Research Center Heidelberg (TLRC-H), German Center for Lung Research (DZL), University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.


Hypoxia challenges left ventricular (LV) function due to reduced energy supply. Conflicting results exist whether high-altitude exposure impairs LV diastolic function and thus contributes to the high altitude-induced increase in systolic pulmonary artery pressure (sPAP) and reduction in stroke volume (SV). This study aimed to assess LV diastolic function, LV end-diastolic pressure (LVEDP), and LA mechanics using comprehensive echocardiographic imaging in healthy volunteers at 4559 m. Fifty subjects performed rapid (<20 hours) and active ascent from 1130 m to 4559 m (high). All participants underwent echocardiography during baseline examination at 424 m (low) as well as 7, 20 and 44 hours after arrival at high altitude. Heart rate (HR), sPAP, and comprehensive volumetric- and Doppler- as well as speckle tracking-derived LA strain parameters were obtained to assess LV diastolic function, LA mechanics, and LVEDP in a multiparametric approach. Data for final analyses were available in 46 subjects. HR (low: 64 ± 11 vs high: 79 ± 14 beats/min, P < 0.001) and sPAP (low: 24.4 ± 3.8 vs high: 38.5 ± 8.2 mm Hg, P < 0.001) increased following ascent and remained elevated at high altitude. Stroke volume (low: 64.5 ± 15.0 vs high: 58.1 ± 16.4 mL, P < 0.001) and EDV decreased following ascent and remained decreased at high altitude due to decreased LV passive filling volume, whereas LA mechanics were preserved. There was no case of LV diastolic dysfunction or increased LVEDP estimates. In summary, this study shows that rapid and active ascent of healthy individuals to 4559 m impairs passive filling and SV of the LV. These alterations were not related to changes in LV and LA mechanics.


cardiac imaging; high altitude pulmonary edema; hypoxia; speckle tracking echocardiography

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