The lung is an extremely capable organ that under most conditions is capable of compensating for the stresses of illnesses to ensure adequate acquisition of oxygen from the atmosphere, ensuring delivery of oxygen to the mitochondria. Even with acute and chronic exposure to high altitude, the lungs' resourceful adaptations ensure that this process can take place. This process is challenged, however, by global hypoxia, especially if there is impairment in the three major processes needed for adequate tissue oxygenation: 1. An intact ventilatory drive to breathe 2. A sufficient increase in alveolar ventilation, which is stimulated by that drive 3. Intact gas exchange at the alveolar-capillary interface This article reviewed some of the classic and recent physiologic mechanisms that make the study of high altitude fascinating and relevant to patients at low altitude who have heart or lung disease.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine