Variable radiomorphologic data of high altitude pulmonary edema. Features from 60 patients

Chest. 1991 Nov;100(5):1306-11. doi: 10.1378/chest.100.5.1306.


The purpose of the study was to collect radiomorphologic data of a large population of subjects with high altitude pulmonary edema. A blinded retrospective analysis of 60 patients severe enough to warrant hospital admission is reported. Immediately after rescue to low altitude, the severity of HAPE was graded using a quadrant-based scoring system (0-4 each quadrant). Its distribution and the morphologic features were noted. HAPE was more severe in the base, and specifically, the right lower quadrant, as compared to the other quadrants. It was often located both centrally and peripherally (60 percent) and in 92 percent was characterized by air space disease of homogeneous (n = 40) rather than patchy distribution (n = 15). In recurrent HAPE (n = 13), radiomorphologic data were as variable as among different HAPE patients. We conclude that HAPE does not have one common radiomorphologic condition. Based on the literature, earlier experience, and follow-up observations, we hypothesize that it may start patchy and peripheral, supporting the concept of uneven vasoconstriction with overperfusion and/or permeability leak. Later on, such as in the severe cases studied, it becomes homogeneous. Recurrent episodes generally do not show an identical distribution of HAPE, suggesting that structural abnormalities are not involved in the pathogenesis of HAPE.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Altitude Sickness / complications
  • Altitude Sickness / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Edema / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pulmonary Edema / etiology
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies