Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Acetazolamide versus Spironolactone for the Prevention of Altitude Sickness

I am going to Mount Everest Basecamp with the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (please donate). They have a program called Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma. These are even driven fund raisers. They put together a team of patients, doctors, patient caregivers, and people climbing in memorial for someone they lost to multiple myeloma.

The trek to Everest basecamp starts at 4,500 feet in Kathmandu and ends at 18,192 in Everest Basecamp. The trek isn't until next march but this past week-end the trekking team got together to meet and do some high altitude climbing around Colorado. We went to the top of Mt Democrat at 14,178 feet. This is the highest I have ever hiked.

One of the goals was to treat this Colorado trip as a shakedown trip. Try out all of the gear we will actually use on the trek to make sure it works. One of the pieces that needed to be tried out was acetazolamide, or Diamox, to prevent acute mountain sickness. The team has a few myeloma doctors and a plastic surgeon, but I am the only nephrologist. One of the participants singled me out and asked an interesting question. This trekker is on spironolactone for hypertension, and wanted to know if it was safe to combine spironolactone with acetazolamide. This made the hair on my neck stand up. Both drugs cause metabolic acidosis so that doesn't seem like a good thing. Both drugs have an opposite effect on renal potassium handling, acetazolamide causes potassium wasting, spironolactone causes potassium retention. And lastly, one of the down sides of a diuretic during mountain trekking is preventing hypovolemia, as both insensible and sensible water losses are increased with activity and getting, purifying, and carrying enough water is a constant concern on these trips. All of this made me feel that spironolactone and aldactone were a bad combination.

I asked Twitter for their thoughts and as usual they did not disappoint:

The article the Edgar found was particularly interesting.

The article is worth a read. I made a visual abstract. It seems that spironolactone does not provide protection and may make people more susceptible to mild, acute mountain sickness.

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