High altitude pulmonary oedema

High altitude pulmonary oedema is a subtype of pulmonary oedema and is caused by prolonged exposure to an environment with a lower partial oxygen atmospheric pressure.

It occurs most frequently in young males and ~24-48 hours after they have made a rapid ascent to heights greater than 2,500-3,000 metres and have remained in that environment.

Reported clinical manifestations include:

  • dyspnoea at rest
  • cough with frothy pink sputum production
  • neurological disturbances associated with concomitant brain oedema

The pathogenesis is considered to be from the altered permeability of the alveolar-capillary barrier secondary to intense pulmonary vasoconstriction and high capillary pressure 1,4.

This, in turn, induces endothelial leakage, which results in interstitial and alveolar oedema without diffuse alveolar damage.

Chest radiographic features can vary with the degree of hypoxaemia.

Central interstitial oedema with peribronchial cuffing, ill-defined vessels, and a patchy, frequently asymmetric pattern of airspace consolidation is usually seen. A few Kerley lines may also be visible.

In mild high-altitude pulmonary oedema, consolidation may be subtle or absent with little or no involvement of the lung periphery. In severe cases, there may be a tendency to form more confluent changes which can eventually involve the entire lung parenchyma.

Share article

Article information

rID: 16270
System: Chest
Tag: cases
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • High altitude pulmonary oedema
  • High altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE)
  • High altitude pulmonary edema
  • High altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE)
  • High-altitude pulmonary oedema

Support Radiopaedia and see fewer ads

Cases and figures

  • Case 1
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Updating… Please wait.

     Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

     Thank you for updating your details.