Nitric oxide enhances recovery of patients in intensive care

Mount Everest expedition to study the body's response in areas of low oxygen levels and indicates that the compound prevents hypoxia

Foto: Maz Adventure/UK
Denny Levett, lead author of the study during the expedition on Mount Everest
Denny Levett, lead author of the study during the expedition on Mount Everest

Result of an expedition to Mount Everest found the body's response in areas with low oxygen levels suggests that drugs or procedures that promote the production of nitric oxide (NO) can improve recovery of critically ill patients in intensive care.

Many critically ill patients suffer from lack of oxygen, a condition known as hypoxia, which can be fatal. Nitric oxide is produced by virtually all cells and organs of the body where it fulfills important functions, including regulation of blood pressure of learning and memory formation, protecting us from infectious diseases.

In this study, developed in partnership between UCL and the University of Warwick, UK, analyzed blood samples and the results collected during the expedition Caudwell Xtreme Everest (CXE) in 2007. The results show that the production of nitric oxide and its activity is high in people living at altitudes close to sea level rise that altitude, leading to changes in blood flow in blood vessels thinner.

The document suggests that interventions to alter the production of nitric oxide - some of which already exist in the form of drugs or gas - may benefit critically ill patients, who suffer from limited oxygen availability.

This is the first time that these effects were documented in a large number of inhabitants of the valley and is consistent with previous residents of the Tibetan plateau - Highlanders - showing that NO levels at this altitude compared with people living near the level the sea.

Study participants were a group of 198 trekkers and 24 climbers, including physicians and scientists. CXE The team made the first measurement of the level of oxygen in human blood in the 8400M Mount Everest. This was the centerpiece of a comprehensive program and ongoing research in human performance and hypoxia at extreme altitude aimed at improving the care of critically ill patients and other situations in which hypoxia is a fundamental problem.

"A climb at extreme altitudes puts the body in an environment with very low oxygen availability, similar to the experience of patients in intensive care with diseases affecting the heart, lungs or vascular system," explains lead study author Dr. Denny Levett.

The senior author of the study, Dr. Martin Feelisch, argues that in the coming years, the survey results may indicate a change in emergency treatment and intensive care. He suggests that there is an alternative way to alleviate the consequences of low oxygen levels, creating a more sustainable tolerance to low levels by treatments that stimulate the production of nitric oxide.

The survey also shows a difference between individuals in terms of the level of their response to nitric oxide in relation to altitude. The sample size is too small to say with confidence why. However, individuals with greater experience of climbing at altitude had a higher response to NO at the beginning of the expedition, suggesting their body constitution in relation to nitric oxide was different from that of less experienced mountaineers ascending to high altitude. Similar factors may explain differences in disease progression among patients in intensive care unit.