Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mountaineers Measure Lowest Human Blood Oxygen Levels On Record

Date:
January 8, 2009
Source:
University College London
Summary:
The lowest ever levels of oxygen in humans have been reported in climbers on an expedition led by UCL doctors. The world-first measurements of blood oxygen levels in climbers near the top of Mount Everest, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, could eventually help critical care doctors to re-evaluate treatment strategies in some long-term patients with similarly low levels of blood oxygen.

The lowest ever levels of oxygen in humans have been reported in climbers on an expedition led by UCL (University College London) doctors. The world-first measurements of blood oxygen levels in climbers near the top of Mount Everest could eventually help critical care doctors to re-evaluate treatment strategies in some long-term patients with similarly low levels of blood oxygen.

The Caudwell Xtreme Everest team of climbing doctors made the measurements by taking blood from leg arteries close to the summit of Mount Everest at 8,400 metres above sea-level. The team climbed with oxygen tanks, then removed their masks 20 minutes prior to testing to equilibrate their lungs with the low-oxygen atmosphere. The team were unable to make the measurement on the summit of Everest as conditions were too severe, with temperatures at minus 25 degrees centrigrade and winds above 20 knots.

Having descended a short distance from the summit, the doctors removed their gloves, unzipped their down suits and drew blood from the femoral artery in the groin. Blood collected from four team members was then carried back down the mountain to be analysed within two hours at a science laboratory set up at the team's camp at 6,400 metres on Everest.

The purpose of the study was to establish what has long been suspected – that high-altitude climbers have incredibly low levels of oxygen in their blood, which at sea-level would only be seen in patients close to death. The expedition found the average arterial oxygen level to be 3.28 kilopascals or kPa (with the lowest value being 2.55 kPa); the normal value in humans is 12-14 kPa and patients with a level below 8 kPa are considered critically ill. Based on calculations of the expected level of oxygen in the blood, the authors also speculate that accumulation of fluid in the lungs as a result of the high altitude might have contributed to the low oxygen levels.

Caudwell Xtreme Everest expedition leader Dr Mike Grocott, a UCL Senior Lecturer in Critical Care Medicine, said: "By observing healthy individuals at high altitude where oxygen is scarce, we can learn about physiological changes that can improve critical care at the hospital bedside, because low oxygen levels are an almost universal problem in critical care. These extraordinary low levels of oxygen found in high-altitude climbers may cause doctors looking after critically ill patients to revaluate treatment goals in some patients who have been ill for some time and might have adapted to low levels of oxygen in the blood. However, our findings will need further careful evaluation before they can be translated into clinical practice. We hope that ongoing research will eventually lead to better treatments for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), cystic fibrosis, emphysema, septic shock, 'blue baby' syndrome and other critical illnesses."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Grocott et al. Arterial Blood Gases and Oxygen Content in Climbers on Mount Everest. New England Journal of Medicine, 2009; 360 (2): 140 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa0801581

Cite This Page:

University College London. "Mountaineers Measure Lowest Human Blood Oxygen Levels On Record." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090107172540.htm>.
University College London. (2009, January 8). Mountaineers Measure Lowest Human Blood Oxygen Levels On Record. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090107172540.htm
University College London. "Mountaineers Measure Lowest Human Blood Oxygen Levels On Record." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090107172540.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mini Pacemaker Has No Wires

Mini Pacemaker Has No Wires

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Cardiac experts are testing a new experimental device designed to eliminate major surgery and still keep the heart on track. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
After Cancer: Rebuilding Breasts With Fat

After Cancer: Rebuilding Breasts With Fat

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) More than 269 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Many of them will need surgery and radiation, but there’s a new simple way to reconstruct tissue using a patient’s own fat. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blood Clots in Kids

Blood Clots in Kids

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Every year, up to 200,000 Americans die from a blood clot that travels to their lungs. You’ve heard about clots in adults, but new research shows kids can get them too. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Radio Waves Knock out Knee Pain

Radio Waves Knock out Knee Pain

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Doctors have used radio frequency ablation or RFA to reduce neck and back pain for years. But now, that same technique is providing longer-term relief for patients with severe knee pain. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins