The pathophysiology of high-altitude illnesses has been well studied in normal individuals, but little is known about the risks of high-altitude travel in patients with pre-existing lung disease. Although it would seem self-evident that any patient with lung disease might not do well at high altitude, the type and severity of disease will determine the likelihood of difficulty in a high-altitude environment.

The present review examines whether these individuals are at risk of developing one of the main forms of acute or chronic high-altitude illness and whether the underlying lung disease itself will get worse at high elevations. Several groups of pulmonary disorders are considered, including obstructive, restrictive, vascular, control of ventilation, pleural and neuromuscular diseases. Attempts will be made to classify the risks faced by each of these groups at high altitude and to provide recommendations regarding evaluation prior to high-altitude travel, advice for or against taking such excursions, and effective prophylactic measures.

Luks, A.M., Swenson, E.R. (2007). The European Respiratory Journal. 29, 4, 770-792

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