Oximetry fails to predict sickness or summit success during a rapid ascent to 5640 m
Wilderness and Environmental Medicine
The purpose of this study was to determine whether arterial oxygen saturation (Spo2) and heart rate (HR), as measured by a finger pulse oximeter on rapid arrival to 4260 m, could be predictive of acute mountain sickness (AMS) or summit success on a climb to 5640 m.
Climbers (35.0 ± 10.1 years; 51 men, 5 women) were transported from 2650 m to the Piedra Grande hut at 4260 m on Pico de Orizaba within 2 hours. After a median time of 10 hours at the hut, they climbed toward the summit (5640 m) and returned, with a median trip time of 14 hours. The Lake Louise Self-Assessment Scale (LLSS) for AMS, HR, and Spo2 were collected on arrival at the hut and repeated immediately before and after the climbers' summit attempts.
Average Spo2 for all participants at 4260 m before their departure for the summit was 84.4% ± 3.7%. Thirty-seven of the 56 participants reached the summit, and 59% of all climbers met the criteria for AMS during the ascent. The Spo2 was not significantly different between those who experienced AMS and those who did not (P = .82); neither was there a difference in Spo2 between summiteers and nonsummiteers (P = .44). Climbers' HR just before the summit attempt was not related to AMS but was significantly lower for summiteers vs nonsummiteers (P = .04).
The Spo2 does not appear to be predictive of AMS or summit success during rapid ascents.
Wagner DR, Knott JR, & Fry JP. (2012). Oximetry fails to predict sickness or summit success during a rapid ascent to 5640 m. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. 23:114-121.