Aims: We assessed the haemodynamic changes induced by exposure to high altitude hypoxia and the effects on them of acetazolamide, a drug prescribed to prevent and treat mountain sickness.
Methods and results: In 42 subjects (21 males, age 36.8 ± 8.9 years) randomized to double blind acetazolamide 250 mg b.i.d. or placebo, pulse wave velocity and pulse wave parameters were assessed (PulsePen) at baseline; after 2-day treatment at sea level; within 6 h and on 3rd day of exposure to high altitude. Exposure to high altitude significantly increased diastolic (P < 0.005) and mean blood pressure (BP) (P < 0.05, after prolonged exposure) in placebo but not in the acetazolamide group. Therefore, subjects on acetazolamide showed significantly lower values of diastolic (P < 0.005) and mean BP (P < 0.05) at altitude. Furthermore, they also showed significantly lower values of systolic BP (P < 0.05). Pulse wave velocity did not change at high altitude, while the augmentation index, normalized for a theoretical heart rate of 75 b.p.m., significantly increased (P < 0.05) under placebo, but not under acetazolamide. In a multivariate model, unadjusted augmentation index at high altitude was not affected by BP changes, while significant determinants were heart rate and gender.
Conclusion: Acute exposure to high altitude induced a rise in brachial BP and changes in pulse waveform-derived parameters, independent from changes in mean BP and partly counteracted by treatment with acetazolamide. The impact of acetazolamide on the haemodynamic alterations induced by hypobaric hypoxia may be considered among the beneficial effects of this drug in subjects prone to mountain sickness.
Clinical trial registration: EudraCT Number: 2010-019986-27.