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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Non-high altitude methods for rapid screening of susceptibility to acute mountain sickness

Han Song, Tao Ke, Wen-Jing Luo* and Jing-Yuan Chen*

Author Affiliations

Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Preventive Medicine, Fourth Military Medical University, No.169, Changlexi Road, Xi’an, Shaanxi 710032, China

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:902  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-902

Published: 30 September 2013



Acute mountain sickness (AMS) refers to the cerebral abnormalities typically triggered by exposure to hypobaric hypoxia at high altitude. Although AMS is not often life threatening, it can seriously impact health quality and decrease productivity. Thus, detection of potential susceptibility to AMS has become important for people arriving at high-altitude plateaus for the first time, including laborers and military staff. The aim of this review was to examine techniques which efficiently assess the susceptibility to AMS prior to exposure to high altitude.


By searching online databases, we retrieved studies with associations between AMS and methods to detect the susceptible people who were not exposed to high altitudes. Studies reporting significant correlation coefficients between screening methods and AMS scores were included.


Several screening techniques of AMS susceptibility were found including cold pressor test, heart rate variability, and lung functions. Of these markers, heart rate variability was positively associated with AMS scores, while the rest were negatively associated with AMS scores.


We identified three physiological markers that were significantly associated with the risk of AMS. Although it is well known that simple sea level tests are not really helpful in predicting AMS currently, these markers, to some degree, may be employed as references in predicting susceptibility.

Acute mountain sickness; Susceptibility; Screening techniques