The effect of vasodilators on pulmonary hemodynamics in high altitude pulmonary edema: A comparison

P. H. Hackett, R. C. Roach, G. S. Hartig, E. R. Greene, B. D. Levine

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90 Scopus citations


High altitude pulmonary edema is characterized hemodynamically by a markedly restricted pulmonary vascular bed. Pulmonary vascular resistance is six to eight times higher than control values at altitude, and mean pulmonary pressure is generally elevated two to four-fold over control values. We wished to compare the effect of various vasodilators on the hemodynamics of HAPE, both to gauge their potential effectiveness in treatment of HAPE, and also to gain clues as to the mechanism of the altered pulmonary circulation. In a series of field experiments using a total of 16 subjects with HAPE and 10 well controls, we measured pulmonary hemodynamics by non-invasive Doppler echocardiography. The per cent reduction in pulmonary vascular resistance and mean pulmonary artery pressure, respectively, were 46 and 33 for oxygen, 30 and 29 for nifedipine, 29 and 25 with hydralazine, 57 and 42 with phentolamine, and 72 and 52 when oxygen and phentolamine were combined. All the vasodilators improved gas exchange, suggesting a link between edema formation and pulmonary vasoconstriction. A number of vasodilators may be useful in the treatment of HAPE; the superiority of an alpha adrenergic blocker may implicate the sympathetic nervous system in the pathophysiology of high altitude pulmonary edema.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S68-S71
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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