Breathing against positive expiratory pressure has been used to improve gas exchange in many forms of pulmonary edema, and forced expiration against resistance during exercise has been advocated for climbing at high altitude as a method to optimize performance. To evaluate the effect of expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) on climbers with high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and on exercise at high altitude, we studied four climbers with HAPE at rest and 13 healthy climbers during exercise on a bicycle ergometer at 4400 m. We measured minute ventilation (V̇I, L/min), arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2 present), end-tidal carbon dioxide (PaCO2, mm Hg), respiratory rate (RR), and heart rate (HR) during the last minute of a five minute interval at rest in the climbers with HAPE, and at rest, 300, and 600 kpm/minute workloads on a bicycle ergometer in the healthy subjects. The HAPE subjects demonstrated an increased SaO2 percent, no change in HR or V̇I, and a decrease in RR on EPAP as compared to control. In normal subjects, SaO2 percent, V̇I, and heart rate were significantly higher on EPAP 10 cm H2O than 0 cm H2O control (p <0.01, 0.01, and 0.05, respectively). The RR and PaCO2 were not significantly different. In summary, EPAP improve gas exchange in HAPE subjects at rest. The EPAP in normal subjects at high altitude resulted in a higher SaO2 percent at the expense of a higher V̇I and higher HR. These results suggest that the work of breathing is higher and the stroke volume lower on EPAP. The positive pressure mask may be an effective temporizing measure for victims of HAPE who cannot immediately go to a lower altitude.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine