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Medicina (Buenos Aires)

versión On-line ISSN 1669-9106


SCHWAB, Marcos et al. High altitude pulmonary edema: An experiment of Nature to study the underlying mechanisms of hypoxic pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary edema in humans. Medicina (B. Aires) [online]. 2007, vol.67, n.1, pp. 71-81. ISSN 1669-9106.

High altitude constitutes an exciting natural laboratory for medical research. Over the past decade, it has become clear that the results of high-altitude research may have important implications not only for the understanding of diseases in the millions of people living permanently at high altitude, but also for the treatment of hypoxemia-related disease states in patients living at low altitude. High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) is a life-threatening condition occurring in predisposed, but otherwise healthy subjects, and, therefore, allows to study underlying mechanisms of pulmonary edema in humans, in the absence of confounding factors. Over the past decade, evidence has accumulated that HAPE results from the conjunction of two major defects, augmented alveolar fluid flooding resulting from exaggerated hypoxic pulmonary hypertension, and impaired alveolar fluid clearance related to defective respiratory transepithelial sodium transport. Here, after a brief presentation of the clinical features of HAPE, we review this novel concept. We provide experimental evidence for the novel concept that impaired pulmonary endothelial and epithelial nitric oxide synthesis and/or bioavailability may represent the central underlying defect predisposing to exaggerated hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction and alveolar fluid flooding. We demonstrate that exaggerated pulmonary hypertension, while possibly a condition sine qua non, may not be sufficient to cause HAPE, and how defective alveolar fluid clearance may represent a second important pathogenic mechanism. Finally, we outline how this insight gained from studies in HAPE may be translated into the management of hypoxemia related disease states in general.

Palabras clave : High altitude pulmonary edema; Pulmonary hypertension; Exhaled nitric oxide; Endothelial dysfunction; Transepithelial respiratory sodium transport; Sympathetic nervous system.

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