Body fluid compartments, renal blood flow, and hormones at 6,000 m in normal subjects

Inder Anand, Y S Chandrashekhar, S. K. Rao, R. M. Malhotra, R. Ferrari, J. Chandana, B. Ramesh, K. J. Shetty, M. S. Boparai

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59 Scopus citations


We previously described a syndrome of congestive heart failure occurring in healthy young men at extreme altitude (Anand et al. Lancet 335: 561-565, 1990). The pathogenesis of this condition is unclear. We therefore measured body fluid compartments, renal blood flow, and a variety of plasma hormones in 10 asymptomatic young men staying above 6,000 m for >10 wk and compared the results with controls at sea level. Body compartments were measured with isotope dilution techniques and renal blood flow with o- [125I]iodohippurate sodium. There was a marked expansion of all the fluid spaces: total body sodium was 14% above normal (P < 0.05), total body water was 18% above normal (P < 0.05), plasma volume was 33% above normal (P < 0.05), and blood volume was 84.5% above normal (P < 0.001). The effective renal plasma flow was lower than normal by 55% (P < 0.001), but the reduction in the effective renal blood flow was 37% below normal (P < 0.001) because the hematocrit was high (41.6% above normal). Plasma norepinephrine was nearly 3 times normal (P < 0.01), cortisol 3 times normal (P < 0.001), and growth hormone 18 times normal (P < 0.01). Aldosterone was twice normal (P < 0.03). Plasma epinephrine, atrial natriuretic peptide, and plasma renin activity were unchanged. The degree of fluid retention in these normal subjects was similar to that in patients with severe untreated congestive heart failure (Anand et al. Circulation 80: 299-305, 1989), whereas sodium retention and reduction in effective renal blood flow were less. Serum aldosterone was less in our normal subjects than in patients with congestive heart failure. Our findings suggest that a prolonged stay at extreme altitude can cause salt and water retention to an extent approximately similar to that in untreated congestive heart failure. It is likely that the stress of hypobaric hypoxia, cold, and exertion at high altitude increases catecholamines, which reduce renal blood flow and lead to a congestive state in normal subjects at extreme altitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1234-1239
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993


  • atrial natriuretic peptide
  • catecholamines
  • heart failure
  • high altitude
  • mountain sickness
  • plasma hormones
  • salt and water retention


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