Article Text

Research at High Altitudes
  1. Surg Cdr Adrian Mellor, FRCA RN, Consultant Anaesthetist1
  1. 1James Cook University Hospital, Marton Road, Middlesbrough 01642 850850 dramellor{at}


Science and mountain exploration are closely linked throughout history. A large array of studies of varying complexity have been performed in conditions of hypobaric hypoxia, some on field studies, some in hypobaric chambers. The military has contributed greatly to this body of evidence both through operations in high altitude regions of the world, hypobaric chamber studies and through field studies as part of adventurous training expeditions. The hope is that by investigating hypoxia in fit participants in field or chamber studies insights may be gained into the adaptation to hypoxia during critical illness and novel approaches for treatment developed. Field studies in the mountains are challenging to design and undertake and need to balance practicalities (e.g. limited power supply) with scientific objectives. This article examines the history and rationale for high altitude research and discusses the challenges of organising a field study.

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