What Is the Point of the Peak? Assessing Steady-State Respiratory Chemoreflex Drive in High Altitude Field Studies
Measurements of central and peripheral respiratory chemoreflexes are important in the context of high altitude as indices of ventilatory acclimatization. However, respiratory chemoreflex tests have many caveats in the field, including considerations of safety, portability and consistency. This overview will (a) outline commonly utilized tests of the hypoxic ventilatory response (HVR) in humans, (b) outline the caveats associated with a variety of peak response HVR tests in the laboratory and in high altitude fieldwork contexts, and (c) advance a novel index of steady-state chemoreflex drive (SS-CD) that addresses the many limitations of other chemoreflex tests. The SS-CD takes into account the contribution of central and peripheral respiratory chemoreceptors, and eliminates the need for complex equipment and transient respiratory gas perturbation tests. To quantify the SS-CD, steady-state measurements of the pressure of end-tidal (PET)CO2 (Torr) and peripheral oxygen saturation (SpO2; %) are used to quantify a stimulus index (SI; PETCO2/SpO2). The SS-CD is then calculated by indexing resting ventilation (L/min) against the SI. SS-CD data are subsequently reported from 13 participants during incremental ascent to high altitude (5160 m) in the Nepal Himalaya. The mean SS-CD magnitude increased approximately 96% over 10 days of incremental exposure to hypobaric hypoxia, suggesting that the SS-CD tracks ventilatory acclimatization. This novel SS-CD may have future utility in fieldwork studies assessing ventilatory acclimatization during incremental or prolonged stays at altitude, and may replace the use of complex and potentially confounded transient peak response tests of the HVR in humans.
KeywordsHypoxic ventilatory response Peripheral chemoreceptors Central chemoreceptors High altitude Steady-state chemoreflex drive
This work was supported in part by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery grant (TAD) and an MRU sabbatical (TAD). We would like to acknowledge and thank ADInstruments for their support of this project. We are grateful to our research participants for their time and effort.