Characteristics and risk profiles of patients with pulmonary arterial or chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension living permanently at >2500 m of high altitude in Ecuador

5 July 2024

Rodrigo HoyosMona LichtblauElizabeth CajamarcaLaura MayerEsther Irene SchwarzSilvia Ulrich


Over 80 Mio people worldwide live >2500 m, including at least as many patients with pulmonary vascular disease (PVD), defined as pulmonary arterial or chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (PAH/CTEPH), as elsewhere (estimated 0.1‰). Whether PVD patients living at high altitude have altered disease characteristics due to hypobaric hypoxia is unknown. In a cross-sectional study conducted at the Hospital Carlos Andrade Marin in Quito, Ecuador, located at 2840 m, we included 36 outpatients with PAH or CTEPH visiting the clinic from January 2022 to July 2023. We collected data on diagnostic right heart catheterization, treatment, and risk factors, including NYHA functional class (FC), 6-min walk distance (6MWD), and NT-brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) at baseline and at last follow-up. Thirty-six PVD patients (83% women, 32 PAH, 4 CTEPH, mean ± SD age 44 ± 13 years, living altitude 2831 ± 58 m) were included and had the following baseline values: PaO2 8.2 ± 1.6 kPa, PaCO2 3.9 ± 0.5 kPa, SaO2 91 ± 3%, mean pulmonary artery pressure 53 ± 16 mmHg, pulmonary vascular resistance 16 ± 4 WU, 50% FC II, 50% FC III, 6MWD 472 ± 118 m, BNP 490 ± 823 ng/L. Patients were treated for 1628 ± 1186 days with sildenafil (100%), bosentan (33%), calcium channel blockers (33%), diuretics (69%), and oxygen (nocturnal 53%, daytime 11%). Values at last visit were: FC (II 75%, III 25%), 6MWD of 496 ± 108 m, BNP of 576 ± 5774 ng/L. Compared to European PVD registries, ambulatory PVD patients living >2500 m revealed similar blood gases and relatively low and stable risk factor profiles despite severe hemodynamic compromise, suggesting that favorable outcomes are achievable for altitude residents with PVD. Future studies should focus on long-term outcomes in PVD patients dwelling >2500 m.

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