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Doctors move forward on altitude issues
24 Nov 2009
The UIAA Medical Commission is investigating a number of new health-related matters that can impact climbers at altitude.
At a meeting last week (November 15-17) in Kathmandu, the commission said it would begin work on consensus papers on eye and dental problems.
The panel of international doctors also agreed to look into the controversial issue of doping in mountaineering.
A potential future service discussed in the Nepali capital could be an advisory on how to avoid the health risks of travel, so people are in good mental and physical condition when they arrive in the mountains.
The Medical Commission also debated whether it has an obligation to set minimum standards for hypoxia training centres or work environments like libraries and museums where the ambient oxygen levels may be lowered due to fire hazard. Hypoxia is a pathological condition in which the body as a whole or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply.
It was noted that a helicopter rescue service is now available for the African mountain, and that the longer routes up Kili were becoming more popular. However, young, budget travellers were highlighted as a risk group. How to be medically safe while climbing Denali is the next project in this category.
The UIAA collaborates with other organisations to provide doctors three different levels of training to teach them about medicine in the mountains. So far, six universities offer the diploma course.
Commission members also took the opportunity to hold discussions with about 40 young Nepali medics. The topics ranged from cardiovascular death in the mountains to the history of the Mountain Medicine Society of Nepal and the Himalayan Rescue Hospital, the Himalayan Rescue Association, and the Khune Hospital built by Sir Edmund Hillary.
The Medical Commission’s 2010 meeting will be held in Arequipa, Peru.