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Pulmonary hemodynamics in children living at high altitudes

Dante Penaloza, Francisco Sime, Luis Ruiz
High Altitude Medicine & Biology 2008, 9 (3): 199-207
There are numerous publications on altitude-related diseases in adults. In addition, an International Consensus Statement published in 2001 deals with altitude-related illnesses occurring in lowland children who travel to high altitudes. However, despite the millions of children living permanently at high altitudes around the world, there are few publications on altitude-related diseases and pulmonary hemodynamics in this pediatric population. In this paper, we review the published literature on this subject. First, the pulmonary hemodynamics of healthy children (newborns, infants, children, and adolescents) residing at altitudes above 4000 m are summarized. Asymptomatic pulmonary hypertension, which slowly declines with increasing age, is found in these children. This is followed by a discussion of the functional closure of ductus arteriosus, which is delayed at high altitude. Then, the high prevalence of patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) in highland children and the pulmonary hemodynamics in these patients are described. Next, the pulmonary hemodynamics in highland children who suffer high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) after a short stay at lower levels is discussed, and the possible reasons for susceptibility to reentry HAPE in this pediatric population are postulated. The pulmonary hemodynamics in children with subacute mountain sickness (SMS) are then described. Moderate to severe pulmonary hypertension is a common finding in all these altitude-related diseases. Finally, the management of these clinical conditions is outlined.

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