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© Thomas Pilgrim, All rights reserved

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Risk of Cardiac Arrhythmias at Extreme Altitude

Thomas Pilgrim

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Universität Bern

Lay summary

Exposure to high altitude has been associated with an increased risk of cardiac arrhythmias in healthy people and an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. In a study of 16 healthy volunteers, more than half of the subjects experienced rhythm abnormalities at an altitude >4100 m above sea level. Several changes at high altitude create a pro-arrhythmic environment. A fall in atmospheric pressure at high altitude causes low blood oxygen levels. In a study among four climbers on Mount Everest, arterial oxygen saturation ranged from 34-70%. At the same time, hyperventilation can cause low levels of potassium and calcium in the blood. Both factors facilitate the occurrence of rhythm abnormalities and may be further exacerbated in an adrenergic state with elevated levels of stress hormones.

The objective of the SUMMIT study is to evaluate the risk and the incidence of cardiac arrhythmias at extreme altitude. SUMMIT is a prospective study of up to 30 healthy volunteers determined to climb Mount Everest. Volunteers will undergo heart ultrasound scan, exercise testing and continuous heart rhythm monitoring in their home environment. Subsequently, subjects will undergo up to 14 days of continuous heart rhythm monitoring and measurement of blood oxygen saturation during their ascent from Base Camp to the summit of Mount Everest (8848 m).

Details

Regional focus High-altitude
Location Mount Everest, Nepal
Funded amount 24,000 CHF
Project dates 1st January 2023 – 1st September 2023
Category SPI Exploratory Grants
Field Notes
Latent Cardiac Arrhythmia in Climbers on Mount Everest
Keywords
altitude, hypoxic conditions, Cardiovascular system, cardiac arrhythmias, medicine