Children and adults residing at high altitude (HA) compared to low altitude (LA) have larger lung volumes; however, it is unknown whether this response to chronic hypoxia begins early in life. Our objective was to determine whether infants and toddlers at HA have larger lung volumes compared to infants and toddlers at LA. Oxygen saturation (SaO2), functional residual capacity (FRC), as well as serum levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and erythropoietin (EPO) were measured in infants and toddlers from HA (N = 50; 3,440 m) and LA (N = 35; 440 m). There were no significant differences in somatic size for HA and LA subjects; however, HA subjects had significantly lower SaO2 (88.5% vs. 96.7%; P < 0.0001). Subjects at HA had significantly greater FRC compared to subjects at LA (group mean: 209 and 157 ml; P < 0.0001), adjusting for body length. Male infants at HA had a significantly greater FRC compared to males at LA (57 ml; P-value < 0.001); however, the increase in FRC for females at HA compared to LA was not significant (20 ml; P-value = 0.101). VEGF and EPO were significantly higher for subjects at HA compared to LA with no gender differences. In summary, infants and toddlers at HA have lower oxygen saturations, higher serum levels of VEGF and EPO, and higher FRC compared to subjects at LA; however, chronic hypoxia appears to generate a more robust response in lung growth in male compared to female infants early in life.
- chronic hypoxia
- functional residual capacity
- oxygen saturation
- vascular endothelial growth factor
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine