Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


High altitude climbers at risk for brain bleeds

New magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research shows that mountain climbers who experience a certain type of high altitude sickness have traces of bleeding in the brain years after the initial incident, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

High altitude cerebral edema (HACE) is a severe and often fatal condition that can affect mountain climbers, hikers, skiers and travelers at high altitudes—typically above 7,000 feet, or 2,300 meters.

HACE results from swelling of brain tissue due to leakage of fluids from the capillaries. Symptoms include headache, loss of coordination and decreasing levels of consciousness.

"HACE is a life-threatening condition," said Michael Knauth, M.D., Ph.D., from the University Medical Center's Department of Neuroradiology in Goettingen, Germany. "It usually happens in a hostile environment where neither help nor proper diagnostic tools are available."

Dr. Knauth and colleagues at the University Hospitals in Goettingen and Heidelberg, Germany, compared brain MRI findings among four groups of mountaineers: climbers with well documented episodes of HACE; climbers with a history of high altitude illness; climbers with a history of severe acute mountain sickness (AMS); and climbers with a history of isolated high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), a life-threatening accumulation of fluid in the lungs that occurs at high altitudes. Two neuroradiologists assessed the brain MRI findings without knowing the status of the mountaineers and assigned a score based on the number and location of any microhemorrhages.

"In most cases, these microhemorrhages are so small that they are only visible with a special MRI technique called susceptibility-weighted imaging," Dr. Knauth said. "With this technique, the microhemorrhages are depicted as little black spots."

The MRI results showed brain microhemorrhages almost exclusively in HACE survivors. Of the 10 climbers with a history of HACE, eight had evidence of microhemorrhages on MRI. The other two had uncertain results. Only two of the remaining 26 climbers were positive for microhemorrhages.

"It was previously thought that HACE did not leave any traces in the brains of survivors," Dr. Knauth said. "Our studies show that this is not the case. For several years after, microhemorrhages or microbleeds are visible in the brains of HACE survivors."

Survivors of the most clinically severe cases of HACE had the most prominent evidence of microhemorrhages on MRI. The bleeds were found predominantly in the corpus callosum, the thick band of nerve fibers that connects the right and left halves of the brain, and showed a characteristic distribution different from other vascular diseases like vasculitis, or blood vessel inflammation.

"The distribution of microhemorrhages is a new and sensitive MRI sign of HACE and can be detected years after HACE," Dr. Knauth said. "We will further analyze our clinical and MRI data on patients with acute mountain sickness, which is thought to be a precursor of HACE."

In the meantime, Dr. Knauth does not think HACE survivors need to give up climbing.

"We cannot give such a strong recommendation," he said. "However, mountaineers who have already experienced HACE once should acclimatize to the altitude very slowly."

Coauthors are Kai Kallenberg, M.D., Peter Bartsch, M.D., and Kai Schommer, M.D.

Note: Copies of RSNA 2012 news releases and electronic images will be available online at beginning Monday, Nov. 26.

RSNA is an association of more than 50,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists, promoting excellence in patient care and health care delivery through education, research and technologic innovation. The Society is based in Oak Brook, Ill.

Editor's note: The data in these releases may differ from those in the published abstract and those actually presented at the meeting, as researchers continue to update their data right up until the meeting. To ensure you are using the most up-to-date information, please call the RSNA Newsroom at 1-312-949-3233.

For patient-friendly information on MRI of the brain, visit

Linda Brooks | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions

19.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

19.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>