CIBA Foundation Symposium on Pulmonary Structure and Function

By A. V. S. De Reuck; Maeve O'Connor | Go to book overview

FINAL GROUP DISCUSSION

McMichael: Dr. West has just returned from a prolonged high altitude expedition and perhaps he could tell us what he learned from it.

West: It is not particularly relevant to the subjects we have discussed here but I could describe what we attempted. It was an unusual expedition in that we had several months in the Himalayas at 19,000 feet, under quite comfortable conditions considering the altitude, where we devoted all our time to physiology. The hut we lived in was a prefabricated one which was built in this country; it was carried up to 19,000 feet by the Sherpas, and set up there with plenty of heating, good electric light, power and a laboratory of about 10 by 12 feet with a lot of equipment in it, so that we were able to do quite complex field physiology measurements.

After a period at 19,000 feet, which we prepared for by spending a month at 15,000 feet at the base camp, we were joined by the climbing party and went across to Makalu where we spent about six weeks on the mountain. There the accent shifted to mountaineering, although we continued to do some physiology and made measurements, for example, of exercise ventilation, maximum work levels and maximum oxygen consumption on a stationary bicycle at heights up to 24,400 feet.

What we studied can be divided into three groups. First we studied ventilation (minute volume) under various conditions. Most of this work had been done before at lower altitudes and our results largely confirmed those of previous workers. We found, for example, that the ventilation was grossly increased, but expressed S.T.P.D. it was similar to the ventilation for the same work load at sea level; it was reduced when oxygen was inspired and in some circumstances exercise was apparently ventilation-limited, particularly at the lower altitudes.

I was particularly interested in diffusion and measured this on our group of normal subjects (six physiologists) in London (virtually sea level), and at 15,000 and 19,000 feet, using a multi-breath carbon

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