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 RSNA.org/press12 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 RadiologyInfo.org.
Linda Brooks | EurekAlert!
Team discovers how bacteria exploit a chink in the body's armor
20.01.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rabies viruses reveal wiring in transparent brains
19.01.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences