January 16, 2018
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Breathing Easy in the Skies: EMMC Respiratory Medicine Begins High Altitude Simulation Test

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BANGOR, Maine – Lung disease often limits options for people who like to travel, forcing them to avoid flights and high-altitude destinations because of respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness. Now, EMMC can help these patients better determine their risk with a high altitude simulation test.
The test simulates the same physiologic conditions encountered at high altitudes patients breathe a gas mixture containing 15.1 percent oxygen, similar to the air on board a commercial aircraft cruising at 35,000 feet. The EMMC Respiratory Medicine staff then monitors the patient for signs of changes in oxygen saturation, shortness of breath, or other symptoms apparent through an electrocardiogram machine. These patients are in good hands. The Pulmonary Lab team has almost 70 years of combined experience, and patients are very closely monitored during the test.
“This test will help a lot of people in the community who have been limited in traveling to high altitude because of lung or cardiac disease,” says Greg Wight, RPFT, Pulmonary Lab supervisor. “We can help them determine what to expect, and we can provide resources so they can travel to a higher altitude.”
Using this method, Respiratory Medicine can prescribe corrective oxygen therapy to help patients who experience drops in their oxygen levels during the simulation.
Patients with the following diagnoses or symptoms who are thinking about air travel or visiting a high altitude locale may benefit from this test with a referral:
• Severe airway disease
• Cystic fibrosis
• Neuromuscular disease
• Kyphoscoliosis
• Hospitalization for acute respiratory illness within the previous six weeks
• Previous air travel intolerance with respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion, or syncope
• A condition worsened by an abnormally low level of oxygen, such as cerebral vascular disease, coronary artery disease, or heart failure