Cardiorespiratory hysteresis during incremental high-altitude ascent–descent quantifies the magnitude of ventilatory acclimatization

Jack K. Leacy, Andrea M. Linares, Shaelynn M. Zouboules, Zahrah H. Rampuri, Jordan D. Bird, Brittney A. Herrington, Leah M. Mann, Jan E. Soriano, Scott F. Thrall, Anne Kalker, Tom D. Brutsaert, Ken D. O'Halloran, Mingma T. Sherpa, Trevor A. Day

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


New Findings: What is the central question of this study? We assessed the utility of a new metric for quantifying ventilatory acclimatization to high altitude, derived from differential ascent and descent steady-state cardiorespiratory variables (i.e. hysteresis). Furthermore, we aimed to investigate whether the magnitude of cardiorespiratory hysteresis was associated with the development of acute mountain sickness. What is the main finding and its importance? Hysteresis in steady-state cardiorespiratory variables quantifies ventilatory acclimatization to high altitude. The magnitude of cardiorespiratory hysteresis during ascent to and descent from high altitude was significantly related to the development of symptoms of acute mountain sickness. Hysteresis in steady-state chemoreflex drive can provide a simple, non-invasive method of tracking ventilatory acclimatization to high altitude. Abstract: Maintenance of arterial blood gases is achieved through sophisticated regulation of ventilation, mediated by central and peripheral chemoreflexes. Respiratory chemoreflexes are important during exposure to high altitude owing to the competing influence of hypoxia and hypoxic hyperventilation-mediated hypocapnia on steady-state ventilatory drive. Inter-individual variability exists in ventilatory acclimatization to high altitude, potentially affecting the development of acute mountain sickness (AMS). We aimed to quantify ventilatory acclimatization to high altitude by comparing differential ascent and descent values (i.e. hysteresis) in steady-state cardiorespiratory variables. We hypothesized that: (i) the hysteresis area formed by cardiorespiratory variables during ascent and descent would quantify the magnitude of ventilatory acclimatization; and (ii) larger hysteresis areas would be associated with lower AMS symptom scores during ascent. In 25 healthy, acetazolamide-free trekkers ascending to and descending from 5160 m, cardiorespiratory hysteresis was measured in the partial pressure of end-tidal CO2, peripheral oxygen saturation, minute ventilation, chemoreceptor stimulus index (end-tidal CO2/peripheral oxygen saturation) and the calculated steady-state chemoreflex drive (SS-CD; minute ventilation/chemoreceptor stimulus index) using portable devices (capnograph, peripheral pulse oximeter and respirometer, respectively). Symptoms of AMS were assessed daily using the Lake Louise questionnaire. We found that: (i) ascent–descent hysteresis was present in all cardiorespiratory variables; (ii) SS-CD is a valid metric for tracking ventilatory acclimatization to high altitude; and (iii) the highest AMS scores during ascent exhibited a significant, moderate and inverse correlation with the magnitude of SS-CD hysteresis (rs = −0.408, P = 0.043). We propose that ascent–descent hysteresis is a new and feasible way to quantify ventilatory acclimatization in trekkers during high-altitude exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-150
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • acute mountain sickness
  • high altitude
  • hypoxia
  • respiratory chemoreflexes
  • ventilatory acclimatization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Cardiorespiratory hysteresis during incremental high-altitude ascent–descent quantifies the magnitude of ventilatory acclimatization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this