Altitude sickness research at breathtaking heights

Pictured at 19,974 feet , with the Huayna Potosí  mountain range in the background, are Toshiba clinical applications specialist Shane Hanlon and expedition leader Andrew Beck holding the Toshiba Viamo system, with the APEX team.

For the benefit of the charity and professional climber, it is essential that research continues to improve the understanding of the causes of altitude related conditions.  Ascent to high altitude is associated with conditions ranging from the relatively minor acute mountain sickness (AMS) to life-threatening forms of altitude illness such as high altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE), and high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE).  


APEX is a Scottish charity with a strong history of high altitude experimentation.  An expedition to the Bolivian Andes in the summer of 2011 aimed to build upon this by investigating the changes in global vascular permeability as a potential leading cause of the life-threatening physiological responses to altitude.

Scans were performed by Toshiba clinical applications specialist Shane Hanlon, with baseline scans taken at sea level in the UK prior to the expedition.  Further imaging data were acquired at 3,508m in La Paz and at 5,270m at the Laboratorio Fisica Cosmica Chacaltaya over an 11 day period.  Parasternal, mid-clavicular and mid-axillary intercostal views were obtained with a linear array probe using a Toshiba Viamo portable ultrasound system.  The degree of pulmonary vascular leakage and consequent oedema was measured sonographically by the detection of ‘lung comets’ through transmission beyond the lung pleura.

See the full report on page 2 of the January 2012 issue of RAD Magazine.

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