Blood coagulation, fibrinolysis, and arterial blood gases were examined in 66 nonacclimatized mountaineers at 4,557 m. Subjects were classified according to a clinical score as healthy (n = 25), having mild acute mountain sickness (AMS) (n = 24), showing severe AMS (n = 13), and suffering from high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) (n = 4). Coagulation times, euglobulin lysis time, and fibrin(ogen) fragment E were normal in all groups without significant changes. Fibrinopeptide A (FPA), a molecular marker of in vivo fibrin formation, was elevated in HAPE to 4.2 +/- 2.7 ng/ml (P less than 0.0001) compared with the other groups showing mean values between 1.6 +/- 0.4 and 1.8 +/- 0.7 ng/ml. FPA was normal in one patient with HAPE, however. Severe AMS was accompanied by a significant decrease in arterial PO2 due to an increase in alveolar-arterial O2 difference, whereas arterial PCO2 did not change significantly. We conclude that activation of blood coagulation is not involved in the pathogenesis of AMS and the impairment of gas exchange in this disease. Fibrin generation occurring in HAPE is probably an epiphenomenon of edema formation.
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