Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Mountain & Wilderness Medicine World Congress Abstracts Part 5

As I noted in my first post about the Mountain & Wilderness Medicine World Congress, sponsored by the Wilderness Medical Society and the International Society for Mountain Medicine in Aviemore, Scotland from October 3-7, 2008, there were many excellent abstracts presented. The following is the fifth and final installment of some of the more interesting of these:

Jeremy Windsor, Edwin Hamilton, Michael Grocott, and James Milledge of London, United Kingdom described a field trail of a new avalanche survival device, which they call the Snow Snorkel, in an abstract entitled, “Trial of the Snow Snorkel: A Proof of Concept Study.” Subjects were buried in snow at least 30 cm ( inches) deep and breathed through the device for 60 minutes. The apparatus essentially consists of a tube that allows the victim to inhale through his mouth and nose, and exhale directly into the tube, which dumps the expired air (which contains more carbon dioxide and less oxygen that the inspired air) near the subject’s waist. The results were quite encouraging, in that eight subjects using the device were able to tolerate 60 minutes under the snow. After the 60 minutes was elapsed, the subjects were instructed to breath without utilizing the device for up to an additional 15 minutes. Three made it through that period, while the other four terminated the trial at 11, 10, 6, 6, and 4 minutes. These observations suggest that this device can be further refined to be affordable and useful for persons at avalanche risk.

Wang Xiaoqing and Chen Qiuhong of Xining, China presented an abstract entitled, “Physiological Adaptation to Hypoxia in Indigenous Animals,” in which they considered the reasons why certain indigenous mountain animals, such as the yak and Tibetan antelope, have adapted to high altitude. In support of some of the theories of the pathophysiology of high altitude illness in humans, they found lower pulmonary vascular tone and augmented endogenous nitric oxide production in the adapted (e.g., tolerant to high altitude) animals, as well as a modified response in the oxygen-carrying affinity of the blood. If these animal data can be extrapolated to humans, then it will add impetus to lowering pulmonary artery pressure to prevent and treat high altitude pulmonary edma, and perhaps even provide a new animal model(s) for high altitude medicine.

Most of the abstracts from the meeting are available in the journal Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, Volume 18, Number 3, 2007.

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Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.