Colin K. Grissom, MD; Robert C. Roach, MS; Frank H. Sarnquist, MD; Peter H. Hackett, MD
▪ Objective: To determine the efficacy of acetazolamide in the treatment of patients with acute mountain sickness and the effect of the drug on pulmonary gas exchange in acute mountain sickness.
▪ Design: A randomized, double-blind, placebocontrolled trial.
▪ Setting: The Denali Medical Research Project highaltitude research station (4200 m) on Mt. McKinley, Alaska.
▪ Participants: Twelve climbers attempting an ascent of Mt. McKinley (summit, 6150 m) who presented to the medical research station with acute mountain sickness.
▪ Intervention: Climbers were randomly assigned to receive acetazolamide, 250 mg orally, or placebo at 0 (baseline) and 8 hours after inclusion in the study.
▪ Main Outcome Measures: An assessment of acute mountain sickness using a symptom score and pulmonary gas exchange measurements was done at baseline and at 24 hours.
▪ Main Results: After 24 hours, five of six climbers treated with acetazolamide were healthy, whereas all climbers who received placebo still had acute mountain sickness (P= 0.015). Arterial blood gas specimens were obtained from three of the six acetazolamide recipients and all of the placebo recipients. The alveolar to arterial oxygen pressure difference (PAo2-Pao2 difference) decreased slightly over 24 hours in the acetazolamide group (- 0.8 ±1.2 mm Hg) but increased in the placebo group (+ 3.3 ± 2.3 mm Hg) (P = 0.024). Acetazolamide improved Pao2 over 24 hours (+ 2.9 ± 0.8 mm Hg) when compared with placebo (- 1.3 ± 2.8 mm Hg) (P = 0.045).
▪ Conclusion: In established cases of acute mountain sickness, treatment with acetazolamide relieves symptoms, improves arterial oxygenation, and prevents further impairment of pulmonary gas exchange.
Grissom CK, Roach RC, Sarnquist FH, Hackett PH. Acetazolamide in the Treatment of Acute Mountain Sickness: Clinical Efficacy and Effect on Gas Exchange. Ann Intern Med. ;116:461–465. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-116-6-461
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1992;116(6):461-465.
Emergency Medicine, Pulmonary/Critical Care.
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