Purpose: Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a neurological disorder that may be unpredictably experienced by subjects ascending at a high altitude. The aim of the present study was to develop a predictive index, measured at an intermediate altitude, to predict the onset of AMS at a higher altitude.
Methods: In the first part, 47 subjects were investigated and blood withdrawals were performed before ascent, at an intermediate altitude (3440 m), and after acute and chronic exposition to high altitude (Mount Everest Base Camp, 5400 m (MEBC1 and MEBC2)). Parameters independently associated to the Lake Louise scoring (LLS) system, including the self-reported and the clinical sections, and coefficients estimated from the model obtained through stepwise regression analysis were used to create a predictive index. The possibility of the index, measured after an overnight stay at intermediate altitude (Gnifetti hut, 3647 m), to predict AMS (defined as headache and LLS ≥ 4) at final altitude (Capanna Margherita, 4559 m), was then investigated in a prospective study performed on 44 subjects in the Italian Alps.
Results: During the expedition to MEBC, oxygen saturation, hematocrit, day of expedition, and maximum velocity of clot formation were selected as independently associated with LLS and were included in the predictive index. In the Italian Alps, subjects with a predictive index value ≥ 5.92 at an intermediate altitude had an odds ratio of 8.1 (95% confidence limits = 1.7-38.6, sensitivity = 85%, specificity = 59%) for developing AMS within 48 h of reaching high altitude.
Conclusion: In conclusion, a predictive index combining clinical and hematological parameters measured at an intermediate step on the way to the top may provide information on impending AMS.