Effect of propranolol on acute mountain sickness (AMS) and well-being at 4,300 meters of altitude

C. S. Fulco, P. B. Rock, J. T. Reeves, L. A. Trad, P. M. Young, A. Cymerman

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18 Scopus citations


A number of physiological responses and adjustments occur at high attitude to compensate for hypoxia. We hypothesized that interference with one component of the normal compensatory process, the sympathetic nervous system, would hinder altitude acclimatization and thereby exacerbate acute mountain sickness (AMS) and compromise well-being. Twelve young males (21.2 ± 0.4 years) received either 80 mg propranolol (PRO; n = 6) or placebo (PLA; n = 6), t.i.d. at sea level (SL) and during the first 15 d of a 19-d residence at 4,300 m (HA). Individuals were randomly assigned to each group. The Environmental Symptoms Questionnaire (ESQ) was administered at SL and twice daily (AM and PM) during the entire altitude exposure in order to assess AMS symptoms and subjective feelings of well-being. Supine heart rate (HR) was determined at rest twice at SL and four times at HA. HR in the PLA group increased 40% over SL values (57 ± 3 to 80 ± 4 beats/min) by day 7 at HA (p < 0.01). HR in the PRO group did not increase above SL values during medication at HA. By 4 d after the medication administration was terminated, HR in the PRO group had increased and did not differ from the PLA group. Throughout the entire altitude exposure, ESQ scores for the PRO group fwere lower than or similar to the PLA group. Furthermore, cessation of PRO treatment did not result in a change in well-being. These findings suggested that interference with the normal acclimatization process by beta-adrenergic blockade did not exacerbate AMS or reduce feelings of well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-683
Number of pages5
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1989


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