Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Altitude Pulmonary Edema Overview

Another name for Altitude Pulmonary Edema is High Altitude Pulmonary Edema.

What is high altitude pulmonary edema?
A person with high altitude pulmonary edema has too much fluid in the lungs, caused by exposure to high altitude. Pulmonary edema causes difficulty breathing and can result in respiratory failure. About 12% of people develop symptoms of high altitude illness at an altitude of 9,000 feet. Only a small percentage of people with high altitude illness develop pulmonary edema.

What are the symptoms of high altitude pulmonary edema?
Initial symptoms of high altitude pulmonary edema may include dry cough, nausea, headache, fever, weakness, fatigue, and mild difficulty breathing that worsens at night and with exertion. Symptoms of severe high altitude pulmonary edema include a bloody cough, severe difficulty breathing, confusion, cyanosis, and coma.

How does the doctor treat high altitude pulmonary edema?
High altitude pulmonary edema is a medical emergency. Treatment for high altitude pulmonary edema includes immediate descent to a lower altitude. Additional treatment for high altitude pulmonary edema includes oxygen therapy and hyperbaric therapy.

Continue to Altitude Pulmonary Edema Incidence

Last Updated: Aug 27, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Altitude Pulmonary Edema References
  1. Basnyat B, Murdoch DR. High-altitude illness. Lancet. 2003 Jun 7;361(9373):1967-74. [12801752]
  2. Foster PP, Feiveson AH, Boriek AM. Predicting time to decompression illness during exercise at altitude, based on formation and growth of bubbles. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2000 Dec;279(6):R2317-28. [11080100]
  3. Gallagher SA, Hackett PH. High-altitude illness. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2004 May;22(2):329-55, viii. Review. [15163571]
  4. Gertsch JH, Basnyat B, Johnson EW, Onopa J, Holck PS. Randomised, double blind, placebo controlled comparison of ginkgo biloba and acetazolamide for prevention of acute mountain sickness among Himalayan trekkers: the prevention of high altitude illness trial (PHAIT). BMJ. 2004 Apr 3;328(7443):797. [15070635]
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