Effects of intermittent hypoxia on the isocapnic hypoxic ventilatory response and erythropoiesis in humans

Respir Physiol. 2000 Oct;123(1-2):39-49. doi: 10.1016/s0034-5687(00)00145-6.


Isocapnic hypoxic ventilatory response (HVR) and hematological variables were measured in nine adult males (age: 29.3+/-3.4) exposed to normobaric intermittent hypoxia (IH, 2 h daily at FI(O(2))=0.13, equivalent to 3800 m altitude) for 12 days. Mean HVR significantly increased during IH, however, after reaching a peak on Day 5 (0.79+/-0.12 vs. 0.27+/-0.11 L.min(-1).%(-1) on Day 1, P<0.05), it progressively decreased toward a lower value (0.46+/-0.16 L min(-1) x %(-1) on Day 12). In contrast, the subjects showed no changes in the ventilatory data and arterial O(2)-saturation in normoxia or poikilocapnic hypoxia (PET(CO(2)) uncontrolled). Hematocrit and hemoglobin concentration did not change, but the reticulocyte count increased by Day 5 (P<0.01). Our results suggest that moderate intermittent hypoxia induces changes in ventilatory O(2)-sensitivity and triggers the hematological acclimatization by increasing the percentage of reticulocytes in the blood. Normal ventilatory acclimatization to hypoxia was, however, not observed and the mechanisms involved in the biphasic changes in HVR we observed remain to be determined.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carbon Dioxide / blood*
  • Erythropoiesis / physiology*
  • Hematocrit
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Reticulocyte Count
  • Time Factors


  • Hemoglobins
  • Carbon Dioxide