Determinants of ventilation and pulmonary artery pressure during early acclimatization to hypoxia in humans

Marzieh Fatemian, Mari Herigstad, Quentin P P Croft, Federico Formenti, Rosa Cardenas, Carly Wheeler, Thomas G Smith, Maria Friedmannova, Keith L Dorrington, Peter A Robbins

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18 Citations (Scopus)
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KEY POINTS: Lung ventilation and pulmonary artery pressure rise progressively in response to 8 h of hypoxia, changes described as 'acclimatization to hypoxia'. Acclimatization responses differ markedly between humans for unknown reasons. We explored whether the magnitudes of the ventilatory and vascular responses were related, and whether the degree of acclimatization could be predicted by acute measurements of ventilatory and vascular sensitivities. In 80 healthy human volunteers measurements of acclimatization were made before, during, and after a sustained exposure to 8 h of isocapnic hypoxia. No correlation was found between measures of ventilatory and pulmonary vascular acclimatization. The ventilatory chemoreflex sensitivities to acute hypoxia and hypercapnia all increased in proportion to their pre-acclimatization values following 8 h of hypoxia. The peripheral (rapid) chemoreflex sensitivity to CO2 , measured before sustained hypoxia against a background of hyperoxia, was a modest predictor of ventilatory acclimatization to hypoxia. This finding has relevance to predicting human acclimatization to the hypoxia of altitude.

ABSTRACT: Pulmonary ventilation and pulmonary arterial pressure both rise progressively during the first few hours of human acclimatization to hypoxia. These responses are highly variable between individuals, but the origin of this variability is unknown. Here, we sought to determine whether the variabilities between different measures of response to sustained hypoxia were related, which would suggest a common source of variability. Eighty volunteers individually underwent an 8-h isocapnic exposure to hypoxia (end-tidal PO2 =55 Torr) in a purpose-built chamber. Measurements of ventilation and pulmonary artery systolic pressure (PASP) assessed by Doppler echocardiography were made during the exposure. Before and after the exposure, measurements were made of the ventilatory sensitivities to acute isocapnic hypoxia (GpO2) and hyperoxic hypercapnia, the latter divided into peripheral (G pC O2) and central (G cC O2) components. Substantial acclimatization was observed in both ventilation and PASP, the latter being 40% greater in women than men. No correlation was found between the magnitudes of pulmonary ventilatory and pulmonary vascular responses. For GpO2, G pC O2 and G cC O2, but not the sensitivity of PASP to acute hypoxia, the magnitude of the increase during acclimatization was proportional to the pre-acclimatization value. Additionally, the change in GpO2 during acclimatization to hypoxia correlated well with most other measures of ventilatory acclimatization. Of the initial measurements prior to sustained hypoxia, only G pC O2 predicted the subsequent rise in ventilation and change in GpO2 during acclimatization. We conclude that the magnitudes of the ventilatory and pulmonary vascular responses to sustained hypoxia are predominantly determined by different factors and that the initial G pC O2 is a modest predictor of ventilatory acclimatization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1197-1213
JournalThe Journal of physiology
Issue number5
Early online date25 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


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