Cerebral hemodynamics at altitude: effects of hyperventilation and acclimatization on cerebral blood flow and oxygenation.

Document Type


Publication Date



Neurology, Surgery

Journal Title

Wilderness & environmental medicine

MeSH Headings

Acclimatization, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Cerebrum, Hemodynamics, Humans, Hyperventilation, Middle Aged, Oxygen, Young Adult


OBJECTIVE: Alterations in cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebral oxygenation are implicated in altitude-associated diseases. We assessed the dynamic changes in CBF and peripheral and cerebral oxygenation engendered by ascent to altitude with partial acclimatization and hyperventilation using a combination of near-infrared spectroscopy, transcranial Doppler ultrasound, and diffuse correlation spectroscopy.

METHODS: Peripheral (Spo2) and cerebral (Scto2) oxygenation, end-tidal carbon dioxide (ETCO2), and cerebral hemodynamics were studied in 12 subjects using transcranial Doppler and diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS) at 75 m and then 2 days and 7 days after ascending to 4559 m above sea level. After obtaining baseline measurements, subjects hyperventilated to reduce baseline ETCO2 by 50%, and a further set of measurements were obtained.

RESULTS: Cerebral oxygenation and peripheral oxygenation showed a divergent response, with cerebral oxygenation decreasing at day 2 and decreasing further at day 7 at altitude, whereas peripheral oxygenation decreased on day 2 before partially rebounding on day 7. Cerebral oxygenation decreased after hyperventilation at sea level (Scto2 from 68.8% to 63.5%; P

CONCLUSIONS: An intensification of the normal cerebral hypocapnic vasoconstrictive response occurred after partial acclimatization in the setting of divergent peripheral and cerebral oxygenation. This may help explain why hyperventilation fails to improve cerebral oxygenation after partial acclimatization as it does after initial ascent. The use of DCS is feasible at altitude and provides a direct measure of CBF indices with high temporal resolution.



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