The hypothesis here is that tissues exposed to the hypoxia of altitude have increased blood flow so that the rate of arrival of oxygen is as rapid as normal. If the ascent is too rapid, the system starts to fail. The study involves an ascent to high altitude (5010 m) during which 59 subjects recorded their resting arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2), heart rate (HR) and Lake Louise acute mountain sickness (AMS) scores, twice daily. During the major ascent SaO2 fell progressively. In 42 subjects, HR increased in a highly significant, negative, relationship to SaO2. In 10 subjects heart rate (HR) remained unchanged. Three subjects showed extreme HR variability. Data were incomplete in four subjects. For nine of the subjects, showing the progressive HR versus SaO2 correlation during ascent, the sequence terminated with a lower HR than would be expected from the correlation so far. Individual AMS scores showed no correlation with SaO2 but averaged values from 19 of the subjects from each ‘one night’ stopover; showed a strong, negative, correlation. Average stopover HR values correlated negatively with the average SaO2 values. Cardiac output (CO) is likely to have increased during ascent as HR increased, since there is a progressive relationship between HR and cardiac output (CO). Hence, despite the progressive fall in SaO2, tissue oxygen delivery (DO2) would have remained close to normal in the 42 subjects who showed the significant HR: SaO2 relationship.
Part of the book: Hypoxia and Human Diseases