Oxygen transport during exercise at extreme altitude: Operation everest II

John T. Reeves, Bertron M. Groves, John R. Sutton, Peter D. Wagner, Allen Cymerman, Mark K. Malconian, Paul B. Rock, Patricia M. Young, James K. Alexander, Charles S. Houston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Eight male volunteers had rest and exercise measurements to determine the mechanisms of oxygen transport during a 40-day chamber, decompression simulating high-altitude exposure equivalent to the summit of Mt Everest. Five subjects completing the study decreased their maximum oxygen uptake by 72%. During maximal or near-maximal exercise, arterial PCO2 fell as low as 8 mm Hg, defending the alveolar PO2 and confirming marked hyperventilation. Alveolar-arterial diffusion did not improve and V/Q worsened. Cardiac function was unimpaired. Circulatory oxygen transport resembled that at sea level. The decrease in mixed venous PO2 was not enough to preserve fractional oxygen utilization "on the summit". The PO2 gradients from atmosphere to alveolus, alveolus to arterial blood, arterial to venous blood, and from venous (capillary) blood to mitochondria all decreased. However, hyperventilation appeared to be the primary adaptation that defended the maximum oxygen uptake.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)993-998
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Emergency Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1987


  • exercise, effect on oxygen transport
  • oxygen, transport, high altitude


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