Steady-state chemoreflex drive captures ventilatory acclimatization during incremental ascent to high altitude: Effect of acetazolamide

Valerie C. Cates, Christina D. Bruce, Anthony L. Marullo, Rodion Isakovich, Gurkarn Saran, Jack K. Leacy, Ken D. O′Halloran, Thomas D. Brutsaert, Mingma T. Sherpa, Trevor A. Day

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ventilatory acclimatization (VA) is important to maintain adequate oxygenation with ascent to high altitude (HA). Transient hypoxic ventilatory response tests lack feasibility and fail to capture the integrated steady-state responses to chronic hypoxic exposure in HA fieldwork. We recently characterized a novel index of steady-state respiratory chemoreflex drive (SSCD), accounting for integrated contributions from central and peripheral respiratory chemoreceptors during steady-state breathing at prevailing chemostimuli. Acetazolamide is often utilized during ascent for prevention or treatment of altitude-related illnesses, eliciting metabolic acidosis and stimulating respiratory chemoreceptors. To determine if SSCD reflects VA during ascent to HA, we characterized SSCD in 25 lowlanders during incremental ascent to 4240 m over 7 days. We subsequently compared two separate subgroups: no acetazolamide (NAz; n = 14) and those taking an oral prophylactic dose of acetazolamide (Az; 125 mg BID; n = 11). At 1130/1400 m (day zero) and 4240 m (day seven), steady-state measurements of resting ventilation (V̇I; L/min), pressure of end-tidal (PET)CO2 (Torr), and peripheral oxygen saturation (SpO2; %) were measured. A stimulus index (SI; PETCO2/SpO2) was calculated, and SSCD was calculated by indexing V̇I against SI. We found that (a) both V̇I and SSCD increased with ascent to 4240 m (day seven; V̇I: +39%, p < 0.0001, Hedges' g = 1.52; SSCD: +56.%, p < 0.0001, Hedges' g = 1.65), (b) and these responses were larger in the Az versus NAz subgroup (V̇I: p = 0.02, Hedges' g = 1.04; SSCD: p = 0.02, Hedges' g = 1.05). The SSCD metric may have utility in assessing VA during prolonged stays at altitude, providing a feasible alternative to transient chemoreflex tests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere15521
JournalPhysiological reports
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • acetazolamide
  • acid–base
  • carbonic anhydrase inhibitor
  • high altitude
  • hypoxic ventilatory response
  • novel methodology
  • renal compensation
  • respiratory chemoreflexes
  • steady-state chemoreflex drive
  • ventilatory acclimatization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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