News in Detail
News about the research project (from 15 April 2003)
500 kg of medical equipment are on the way to the base camp of Mount Everest with a caravan of 120 porters, 50 yaks, and 6 high altitude porter Sherpas.
The difficulties to get the materials out of the customs were bigger than expected and did cost a day of negotiations and a lot of powers of persuasion. Despite all difficulties, after a three days trek we could put our "intensive care unit" into operation in Namche Bazar at an altitude of 3500 m. The tests attracted a lot of attention; a lodge owner (Panorama Lodge) placed his greenhouse at our disposal for use as our "laboratory".
On two successive days, we could work around the clock (more than 120 echocardiograms, several hundred blood and urine samples, pulmonary function tests and not to forget the exertion tests on the bicycle ergometer which we brought with us). Only the miniaturization of the medical equipment, as for example the Siemens-Acuson echocardiography instrument which we used here, made such investigations possible.
The study medicament Sildenafil was well-tolerated by all test persons also at this altitude. However, only after the placebo-controlled study will be "unblinded", it will be clear if it has improved the fitness, the heart minute volume and the oxygen intake. At the moment neither the test persons nor the physicians know at what time they received a tablet of Sildenafil or the placebo. Up to now it is only evident that a pulmonary high pressure already develops at this altitude, increasing under exertion on the ergometer. In contrary, during the tests in Giessen under normal conditions, even under exertion no pulmonary high pressure could be seen. Therefore, besides the lack of oxygen, the altitude exposition leads to a limitation of circulation capacity which is clearly felt by all participants.
After the tests of the team members (many thanks again to all participants), locals and Sherpas were checked until late at night. We could find very interesting results concerning the cardiovascular system.
After 3 days of intense work in Namche, the laboratory was packed again and loaded onto the yaks. On the way to base camp we received news about the first death in basecamp: A 28 year-old technician of a French film team was found dead in the morning in his tent. This makes clear again what danger this high altitude means for the human organism.
In the next days after having reached base camp, the mobile health care unit will be established again in a separate tent.
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