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High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema Treatment & Management

  • Author: Rohit Goyal, MD; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
 
Updated: Dec 31, 2015
 

Medical Care

The treatment of high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) includes rest, administration of oxygen, and descent to a lower altitude. If diagnosed early, recovery is rapid with a descent of only 500-1000 m. A portable hyperbaric chamber or supplemental oxygen administration immediately increases oxygen saturation and reduces pulmonary artery pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and symptoms. In situations where descent is difficult, these treatments can be lifesaving.[10, 11]

In one study, 11 patients at 4240 m altitude in Pheriche, Nepal were treated for HAPE with bed rest, oxygen, nifedipine, and acetazolamide.[12] Sildenafil and salmeterol were used in most, but not all patients. Seven of these had serious-to-severe HAPE (Hultgren grades 3 or 4). Oxygen saturation was improved at discharge (84% ±1.7%) compared with admission (59% ±11%), as was the ultrasound comet-tail score (11 ±4 at discharge vs 33 +/- 8.6 at admission), a measure of pulmonary edema for which admission and discharge values were obtained in 7 patients.

A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study showed that adults with previous HAPE who received prophylactic tadalafil (10 mg) or dexamethasone (8 mg) had significantly less HAPE compared with those who received placebo twice daily. The medications were administered during ascent and at a stay at 4559 m altitude.[13]

Two participants who received tadalafil developed severe acute mountain sickness upon arrival at 4559 m and withdrew from the study; they did not have HAPE at that time. HAPE developed in 7 of 9 participants who received placebo and in 1 of the remaining 8 participants who received tadalafil, but it did not develop in any of the 10 participants who received dexamethasone (P = .007 for tadalafil vs placebo; P < .001 for dexamethasone vs placebo). Eight of 9 participants who received placebo, 7 of 10 who received tadalafil, and 3 of 10 who received dexamethasone had acute mountain sickness (P = 1.0 for tadalafil vs placebo; P = .020 for dexamethasone vs placebo).

At high altitude, systolic pulmonary artery pressure increased less in participants who received dexamethasone (16 mm Hg [95% confidence interval, 9-23 mm Hg]) and tadalafil (13 mm Hg [95% confidence interval, 6-20 mm Hg]) than in those who received placebo (28 mm Hg [95% confidence interval, 20-36 mm Hg]) (P = .005 for tadalafil vs placebo; P = .012 for dexamethasone vs placebo).

The conclusion was that both dexamethasone and tadalafil decrease systolic pulmonary artery pressure and may reduce the incidence of HAPE in adults with a history of HAPE.[14] Dexamethasone prophylaxis may also reduce the incidence of acute mountain sickness in these adults.

Finally, the use of an expiratory positive airway pressure mask improves oxygenation and may be useful as a temporizing measure.

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Diet

See the list below:

  • A diet rich in carbohydrates has shown to be helpful in prevention of high-altitude pulmonary edema.
  • Alcohol and sedatives should be avoided.
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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Rohit Goyal, MD Fellow, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York University School of Medicine

Rohit Goyal, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American Medical Association, American Thoracic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Klaus-Dieter Lessnau, MD, FCCP Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine; Medical Director, Pulmonary Physiology Laboratory; Director of Research in Pulmonary Medicine, Department of Medicine, Section of Pulmonary Medicine, Lenox Hill Hospital

Klaus-Dieter Lessnau, MD, FCCP is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, American Thoracic Society, Society of Critical Care Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Samia Qazi, MD, MD 

Samia Qazi, MD, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Laurie Ward, MD 

Laurie Ward, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians, American Society of Nephrology, International Society of Nephrology, National Kidney Foundation

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Qazi Qaisar Afzal, MD Clinical Instructor, Department of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook

Qazi Qaisar Afzal, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Physicians, Medical Society of the State of New York

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Mir Omar Ali, MD Fellow, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York University

Mir Omar Ali, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians, Society of Critical Care Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Mir Mustafa Ali Deccan College of Medical Sciences, Owaisi Hospital and Research Center, Princess Esra Hospital

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Chief Editor

Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP Geri and Richard Brawerman Chair in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Professor and Executive Vice Chairman, Department of Medicine, Medical Director, Women's Guild Lung Institute, Cedars Sinai Medical Center, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine

Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Federation for Medical Research, American Thoracic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Gregory Tino, MD Director of Pulmonary Outpatient Practices, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and Hospital

Gregory Tino, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Thoracic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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