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Free Content Pulmonary Artery Pressure Response to Simulated Air Travel in a Hypobaric Chamber

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BACKGROUND: Hypoxia-induced elevation in pulmonary artery pressure during air travel may contribute to the worldwide burden of in-flight medical emergencies. The pulmonary artery pressure response may be greater in older passengers, who are more likely to require flight diversion due to a medical event. Understanding these effects may ultimately improve the safety of air travel.

METHODS: We studied 16 healthy volunteers, consisting of a younger group (aged < 25 yr) and an older group (aged > 60 yr). Using a hypobaric chamber, subjects undertook a 2-h simulated flight at the maximum cabin pressure altitude for commercial airline flights (8000 ft; 2438 m). Higher and lower altitudes within the aeromedical range were also explored. Systolic pulmonary artery pressure (sPAP) was assessed by Doppler echocardiography.

RESULTS: There was a progressive increase in sPAP which appeared to be biphasic, with a small initial increase and a larger subsequent rise. Overall, sPAP increased by 5 ± 1 mmHg from baseline to 35 ± 1 mmHg at 8000 ft, an increase of 18%. The sPAP response to 8000 ft was greater in the older group than the younger group.

CONCLUSIONS: This study confirms that pulmonary artery pressure increases during simulated air travel, and provides preliminary evidence that this response is greater in older people. Advancing age may increase in-flight susceptibility to adverse pulmonary vascular responses in passengers, aircrew, and aeromedical patients.

Turner BE, Hodkinson PD, Timperley AC, Smith TG. Pulmonary artery pressure response to simulated air travel in a hypobaric chamber. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2015; 86(6):529–534.

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Keywords: aeromedical transportation; aircraft cabin hypoxia; elderly; hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction; passenger fitness to fly

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2015

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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