Navratilova may have avoided hospital

Dec. 17, 2010 at 7:56 PM

EDINBURGH, Scotland, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Prior acclimatization to higher altitudes can prevent acute mountain sickness, which recently struck tennis icon Martina Navratilova, Scottish researchers say.

The former tennis champion was hospitalized last week for pulmonary edema -- fluid build-up in the lungs, a more serious disorder than some more common forms of acute mountain sickness -- while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

Steward Jackson, J. Kenneth Baillie and colleagues from University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Muhimbili University College of Health Science in Tanzania evaluated the incidence of acute mountain sickness among 177 climbers -- mean age 31 -- at Mount Kilimanjaro. The researchers compared the protective effect of a single day of rest during the climb, use of a drug with diuretic properties that inhibits fluid retention, or acclimatization to increased altitude prior to the climb.

Altitude-related medical problems during the ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro are relatively common -- the higher the climbers got the more likely they were to be positive for acute mountain sickness, the researchers found.

The study found the climbers who took the drug had a similar rate of acute mountain sickness compared with those not taking the drug acetazolamide, the day of rest did not demonstrate a difference between those who had no rest day, but there was a significant reduction in the incidence of acute mountain sickness amongst pre-acclimatized subjects.

The findings are published in a recent issue of High Altitude Medicine & Biology.

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