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Sildenafil citrate for the prevention of high altitude hypoxic pulmonary hypertension: double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-14
Number of pages8
JournalHigh Altitude Medicine and Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Exaggerated hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction is a key factor in the development of high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). Due to its effectiveness as a pulmonary vasodilator, sildenafil has been proposed as a prophylactic agent against HAPE. By conducting a parallel-group double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, we investigated the effect of chronic sildenafil administration on pulmonary artery systolic pressure (PASP) and symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS) during acclimatization to high altitude. Sixty-two healthy lowland volunteers (36 male; median age 21 years, range 18 to 31) on the Apex 2 research expedition were flown to La Paz, Bolivia (3650 m), and after 4-5 days acclimatization ascended over 90 min to 5200 m. The treatment group (n=20) received 50 mg sildenafil citrate three times daily. PASP was recorded by echocardiography at sea level and within 6 h, 3 days, and 1 week at 5200 m. AMS was assessed daily using the Lake Louise Consensus symptom score. On intention-to-treat analysis, there was no significant difference in PASP at 5200 m between sildenafil and placebo groups. Median AMS score on Day 2 at 5200 m was significantly higher in the sildenafil group (placebo 4.0, sildenafil 6.5; p=0.004) but there was no difference in prevalence of AMS between groups. Sildenafil administration did not affect PASP in healthy lowland subjects at 5200 m but AMS was significantly more severe on Day 2 at 5200 m with sildenafil. Our data do not support routine prophylactic use of sildenafil to reduce PASP at high altitude in healthy subjects with no history of HAPE. TRIALS REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT00627965.

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