Pulmonary function abnormalities, which have been reported to occur in persons with sickle cell trait (hemoglobin AS), could intensify the hypoxic stimulus for the systemic formation of sickle cells at high altitude. We sought to determine whether pulmonary function abnormalities occur as a result of exposure to high altitudes in persons with hemoglobin AS. In a prospective study, 13 men with hemoglobin AS ('cases') and 13 controls (hemoglobin AA) matched by age, sex, and race were exposed to five to seven altitude simulations (ranging from 1524 to 7620 m [5000 to 25,000 ft]) in a hypobaric chamber. Measurements of diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DL(CO)), forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume in one second, and forced midexpiratory flow were obtained before and after each exposure. Data before exposures did not differ statistically between cases and controls. Altitude had no systematic effect on DL(CO) or spirometric values in cases compared with values in controls (p > 0.05). Individual declines in forced vital capacity or DL(CO) of more than 10% occurred with similar frequency in both groups. Measurements made after the series of exposures showed no change from those made before. We conclude that short serial exposures to hypoxia at high altitudes does not acutely or cumulatively alter DL(CO) or spirometric values in healthy, nonexercising persons with sicke cell trait.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine