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500 W Pacific Ave
Telluride, CO, 81320
United States



current research


Altitude Sickness Survey

This survey, specifically designed for Telluride and Mountain Village, evaluates the extent of altitude illness among tourists and the economic impact it has on our community.

Medical Treatment of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)

High altitude pulmonary edema can be life-threatening. Oxygen therapy or descent to a lower altitude is the standard treatment for HAPE. This study will determine if medications such as Cialis, nifedipine, or Diamox improve time to recovery in HAPE, in addition to oxygen therapy. Ultrasound will be used to measure the blood pressure in the lungs as well as fluid in the lungs. This study will help also help standardize care for HAPE patients.

Does High Altitude Cause Brain Damage?

Much recent negative press has been generated regarding brain MRI changes in high altitude climbers. Appropriate quantitative measurements of these MRI changes have not been done. The significance of these changes is unknown and has not been correlated with neurocognitive testing. Statements that altitude causes brain damage are unfounded. We will perform a study on a group of climbers already planning on climbing Denali in 2008. These subjects will undergo pre and post climb MRIs of their brains as well as neurocognitive testing to determine if any significant changes occur after a single climb to high altitude.

Correlation of High Altitude Headache and Optic Nerve Sheath Diameter

Swelling in the brain often contributes to headache at altitude. Pressure in the brain can be measured using a noninvasive ultrasound machine to assess swelling of the optic nerve sheath at the back of the eyeball. This measurement in conjunction with patients' symptoms will be used to assess different treatments for high altitude headache.

Altitude and High Blood Pressure

Little is known about how altitude affects those with hypertension or what medications are best to treat uncontrolled high blood pressure related to the effects of altitude. This study uses an ambulatory blood pressure monitor, worn at home and during usual activities, to measure blood pressure at sea level and at altitude in those with blood pressure problems.

Exercise Performance at Altitude

Viagra's effect on the blood pressure in the lungs may have a positive effect on exercise performance at altitude. We wish to test athletes while exercising prior to and after taking a single dose of Viagra to evaluate their performance and blood pressure in the lungs by ultrasound.

Pulmonary Artery Pressure in Men vs. Women

Women's susceptibility to HAPE is less than men, but the reason for this is unknown. We think this is related to less of a pulmonary blood pressure response to low oxygen in women than men. IFAM will study the differences in pulmonary artery pressure response to hypoxia by performing echocardiography (ultrasound studies of the heart and pulmonary blood pressure) on men and women when given different oxygen mixtures to breathe.

Other areas for research 

  • Pregnancy and newborns at altitude 
  • Sleep problems at altitude 
  • Hyperbaric chambers vs. oxygen for treatment of altitude illness