Last reviewed: November 2017
Last updated: October  2017

Summary

Definition

History and exam

Key diagnostic factors

  • headache
  • ataxia
  • change in mental state: for example, tired, irritable, confused, forgetful, irrational
  • abnormal tone, power, and reflexes

Other diagnostic factors

  • nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
  • fatigue and weakness
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • visual disturbance
  • shortness of breath
  • cough with or without sputum
  • rales
  • peripheral edema
  • accentuated pulmonary second sound
  • pyrexia
  • elevated respiratory rate
  • elevated heart rate
  • low arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2)
  • cyanosis
  • urinary incontinence or retention
  • retinal hemorrhages and papilledema on fundoscopy
  • chest pain
  • cranial nerve palsies (III, IV, and VI)
  • visual and auditory hallucinations, seizures, tinnitus, vertigo, tremors, speech disturbance, and deafness

Risk factors

  • high altitude
  • rapid ascent
  • low-altitude residence
  • history of previous altitude illness
  • younger age
  • exertion
  • poor awareness of high-altitude illness prior to travel

Diagnostic investigations

Investigations to consider

  • arterial blood gases
  • chest radiography
  • ECG
  • chest ultrasound and echocardiography
  • WBC count
  • lumbar puncture
  • CT head
  • MRI head
Full details

Treatment algorithm

Contributors

Authors VIEW ALL

Specialist Registrar

Anaesthetics and Intensive Care Medicine

University College Hospital

London

UK

Disclosures

JSW is an author of a number of references cited in this monograph.

General Practitioner

Mountain Medicine & Pre Hospital Care

Derriton House

Derriton

Holsworthy

Devon

UK

Disclosures

DH consults for an expedition mountaineering company; he is also retired president of UIAA Medcom, vice president of the International Society of Mountain Medicine, and an honorary medical advisor to the British Mountain Guides and the British Mountaineering Council. He is a joint author of a paper cited in this monograph.

Peer reviewers VIEW ALL

Honorary Professor

Department of Physiology

University College London

London

UK

Disclosures

JSM declares that he has no competing interests.

Senior Lecturer

Intensive Care Medicine

University College Hospital

London

UK

Disclosures

MG declares that he has no competing interests.

Assistant Professor

LSU Health Sciences Center

Shreveport

LA

Disclosures

HW declares that he has no competing interests.

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