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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Application of Point-of-care Ultrasound for Screening Climbers at High Altitude for Pulmonary B-lines


Introduction: High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) occurs as a result of rapid ascent to altitude faster than the acclimatization processes of the body. Symptoms can begin at an elevation of 2,500 meters above sea level. Our objective in this study was to determine the prevalence and trend of developing B-lines at 2,745 meters above sea level among healthy visitors over four consecutive days.

Methods: We performed a prospective case series on healthy volunteers at Mammoth Mountain, CA, USA. Subjects underwent pulmonary ultrasound for B-lines over four consecutive days.

Results: We enrolled 21 male and 21 female participants. There was an increase in the sum of B-lines at both lung bases from day 1 to day 3, with a subsequent decrease from day 3 to day 4 (P<0.001). By the third day at altitude, B-lines were detectable at base of lungs of all participants. Similarly, B-lines increased at apex of lungs from day 1 to day 3 and decreased on day 4 (P=0.004).

Conclusion: By the third day at 2,745 meters altitude, B-lines were detectable in the bases of both lungs of all healthy participants in our study. We assume that increasing the number of B-lines could be considered an early sign of HAPE. Point-of-care ultrasound could be used to detect and monitor B-lines at altitude to facilitate early detection of HAPE, regardless of pre-existing risk factors.

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