Current clinical research progress on high altitude medicine
Edited by: Dr. Lan Huang
There has been a long history of high altitude medical research, especially in China. Through systematic investigation, modern medicine has achieved systematical understanding of acclimation-adaptation in response to hypoxia as well as the related series of physiological and pathological changes after entering the high altitude. However, from a clinical point of view, there are still some issues worthy of thorough and systematic study, including that: 1. Acute mountain sickness (AMS) generally lacks widely accepted and unified scoring standards. The international academic community currently uses a distinct scoring system, despite that studies by Chinese scholars in this field have played critically important roles in medical protection for large numbers of plateau-entering people. 2. At present there are still no practical objective examinations for the diagnosis of AMS. The diagnostic tools depend mainly on a subjective rating scale. 3. Modern treatment of high altitude medicine needs the standardization of AMS prevention principles and guidelines supported by evidence-based medicine. Although China has made great progress in the treatment of AMS and the morbidity and mortality has largely decreased, the treatment protocols differ largely from different medical units and regions. In addition, some clinicians rely mainly on their individual empirical experience for the diagnosis and treatment. 4. Given the large population entering the plateau for emergency missions, AMS prevention and treatment must be further improved.
For these reasons, we undertook a special health research project from the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China and performed systematic field studies based on the principles of evidence-based medicine. Here, we included part of our research, mainly on the relationship of AMS with physiological, pathological, and behavioral factors including different arterial blood pressure, smoking and red blood cell hyperplasia. The research was independent and prospective. Although conducted on the plateau scene, research subjects were mostly plains native populations who arrived plateau acutely. Part of them had adapted to high altitude for a period of time then ascended to higher altitudes.
This series was published in Military Medical Research.