Renal reactivity: acid-base compensation during incremental ascent to high altitude

Shaelynn M. Zouboules, Hailey C. Lafave, Ken D. O'Halloran, Tom D Brutsaert, Heidi E. Nysten, Cassandra E. Nysten, Craig D. Steinback, Mingma T. Sherpa, Trevor A. Day

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Key points: Ascent to high altitude imposes an acid-base challenge in which renal compensation is integral for maintaining pH homeostasis, facilitating acclimatization and helping prevent mountain sicknesses. The time-course and extent of plasticity of this important renal response during incremental ascent to altitude is unclear. We created a novel index that accurately quantifies renal acid-base compensation, which may have laboratory, fieldwork and clinical applications. Using this index, we found that renal compensation increased and plateaued after 5 days of incremental altitude exposure, suggesting plasticity in renal acid-base compensation mechanisms. The time-course and extent of plasticity in renal responsiveness may predict severity of altitude illness or acclimatization at higher or more prolonged stays at altitude. Abstract: Ascent to high altitude, and the associated hypoxic ventilatory response, imposes an acid-base challenge, namely chronic hypocapnia and respiratory alkalosis. The kidneys impart a relative compensatory metabolic acidosis through the elimination of bicarbonate (HCO3 ) in urine. The time-course and extent of plasticity of the renal response during incremental ascent is unclear. We developed an index of renal reactivity (RR), indexing the relative change in arterial bicarbonate concentration ([HCO3 ]a) (i.e. renal response) against the relative change in arterial pressure of CO2 (PaCO2) (i.e. renal stimulus) during incremental ascent to altitude (Δ[HCO3 −]a/ΔPaCO2). We aimed to assess whether: (i) RR magnitude was inversely correlated with relative changes in arterial pH (ΔpHa) with ascent and (ii) RR increased over time and altitude exposure (i.e. plasticity). During ascent to 5160 m over 10 days in the Nepal Himalaya, arterial blood was drawn from the radial artery for measurement of blood gas/acid-base variables in lowlanders at 1045/1400 m and after 1 night of sleep at 3440 m (day 3), 3820 m (day 5), 4240 m (day 7) and 5160 m (day 10) during ascent. At 3820 m and higher, RR significantly increased and plateaued compared to 3440 m (P < 0.04), suggesting plasticity in renal acid-base compensations. At all altitudes, we observed a strong negative correlation (r ≤ −0.71; P < 0.001) between RR and ΔpHa from baseline. Renal compensation plateaued after 5 days of altitude exposure, despite subsequent exposure to higher altitudes. The time-course, extent of plasticity and plateau in renal responsiveness may predict severity of altitude illness or acclimatization at higher or more prolonged stays at altitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Physiology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

Keywords

  • Acid-Base Physiology
  • High Altitude
  • Metabolic Acidosis
  • Renal Compensation
  • Respiratory Alkalosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology

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    Zouboules, S. M., Lafave, H. C., O'Halloran, K. D., Brutsaert, T. D., Nysten, H. E., Nysten, C. E., Steinback, C. D., Sherpa, M. T., & Day, T. A. (Accepted/In press). Renal reactivity: acid-base compensation during incremental ascent to high altitude. Journal of Physiology. https://doi.org/10.1113/JP276973