Altitude Illness

Robert J. Hyde, MD, MA, NRP, FACEP Reviewed 06/2017
 


BASICS

DESCRIPTION

  • Altitude illness is a spectrum of medical problems ranging from mild discomfort to fatal illness that may occur on ascent to higher altitudes (elevations >1,500 m [4,921 feet]). I...

DIAGNOSIS

HISTORY

  • AMS, mild to moderate symptoms

    • Headache, plus at least one of the following:

      • Anorexia

      • Nausea or vomiting

      • Dizziness or light-headedness

      • Insomnia

  • AMS, severe symptoms

    • Increased headache

    • I...

TREATMENT

GENERAL MEASURES

  • Therapy must be tailored to fit disease severity.

  • Early recognition is critical.

  • Stop ascent, acclimatize at the same altitude, and/or descend if symptoms do not abate over 24 ...

ONGOING CARE

FOLLOWUP RECOMMENDATIONS

MONITORING

  • For mild cases, no follow-up is needed.

  • For more severe cases, follow until symptoms subside.

PATIENT TEACHING

Patients should be counseled about the risks ...

REFERENCES

Gallagher SA, Hackett PH. High-altitude illness. Emerg Med Clin North Am.  2004;22(2):329–355. [View Abstract on OvidInsights]
Schoene RB. Illnesses at high altitude. Chest.  200...

ADDITIONAL READING

  • Imray C, Booth A, Wright A et al. Acute altitude illnesses. BMJ.  2011;343:d4943. [View Abstract on OvidInsights]

  • Luks AM, McIntosh SE, Grissom CK et al. Wilderness Medical Soci...

CODES

ICD10

  • T70.20XA Unspecified effects of high altitude, initial encounter

  • T70.20XD Unspecified effects of high altitude, subsequent encounter

  • T70.20XS Unspecified effects of high altitude, sequela

  • T70....

PEARLS

  • Slow ascent and timely descent are important tenets in the prevention and treatment of high-altitude illnesses, respectively.

  • High-flow oxygen, followed by oxygen titrated to maintain SaO2 >9...

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