Patent foramen ovale and high-altitude pulmonary edema

Allemann, Yves; Hutter, Damian; Lipp, Ernst; Sartori, Claudio; Duplain, Hervé; Egli, Marc; Cook, Stéphane; Scherrer, Urs; Seiler, Christian (2006). Patent foramen ovale and high-altitude pulmonary edema. JAMA - the journal of the American Medical Association, 296(24), pp. 2954-8. Chicago, Ill.: American Medical Association 10.1001/jama.296.24.2954

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CONTEXT: Individuals susceptible to high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) are characterized by exaggerated pulmonary hypertension and arterial hypoxemia at high altitude, but the underlying mechanism is incompletely understood. Anecdotal evidence suggests that shunting across a patent foramen ovale (PFO) may exacerbate hypoxemia in HAPE. OBJECTIVE: We hypothesized that PFO is more frequent in HAPE-susceptible individuals and may contribute to more severe arterial hypoxemia at high altitude. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Case-control study of 16 HAPE-susceptible participants and 19 mountaineers resistant to this condition (repeated climbing to peaks above 4000 m and no symptoms of HAPE). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Presence of PFO determined by transesophageal echocardiography, estimated pulmonary artery pressure by Doppler echocardiography, and arterial oxygen saturation measured by pulse oximetry in HAPE-susceptible and HAPE-resistant participants at low (550 m) and high altitude (4559 m). RESULTS: The frequency of PFO was more than 4 times higher in HAPE-susceptible than in HAPE-resistant participants, both at low altitude (56% vs 11%, P = .004; odds ratio [OR], 10.9 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 1.9-64.0]) and high altitude (69% vs 16%, P = .001; OR, 11.7 [95% CI, 2.3-59.5]). At high altitude, mean (SD) arterial oxygen saturation prior to the onset of pulmonary edema was significantly lower in HAPE-susceptible participants than in the control group (73% [10%] vs 83% [7%], P = .001). Moreover, in the HAPE-susceptible group, participants with a large PFO had more severe arterial hypoxemia (65% [6%] vs 77% [8%], P = .02) than those with smaller or no PFO. CONCLUSIONS: Patent foramen ovale was roughly 4 times more frequent in HAPE-susceptible mountaineers than in participants resistant to this condition. At high altitude, HAPE-susceptible participants with a large PFO had more severe hypoxemia. We speculate that at high altitude, a large PFO may contribute to exaggerated arterial hypoxemia and facilitate HAPE.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Cardiovascular Disorders (DHGE) > Clinic of Cardiology

UniBE Contributor:

Allemann, Yves






American Medical Association




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:52

Last Modified:

17 Mar 2015 21:55

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URI: (FactScience: 20541)

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