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November 12, 1997

High Altitude Medicine

JAMA. 1997;278(18):1539. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550180093047

Mountainous heights and high altitude have fascinated, intrigued, and frightened humankind since before Moses descended from the mountain. History is replete with human-mountain interactions—Hannibal, 20th-century India-Chinese armed conflicts, Vesuvius, the Mount Saint Helen's eruption, bigfoot, Hillary and Tenzing, the Nez Perce, Donner, Greek gods, saints, sinners, and hermits.

No less fascinating are the physiological and psychological limits imposed by altitude, weather, terrain, and the hypoxic milieu on humans and other animals. Although numerous interesting and important scientific books have been published this century, none approaches the depth, scope, and detail of Herb Hultgren's new High Altitude Medicine. The title is something of a misnomer, as much of the book (to the author's credit) deals with the physiological effects of high altitude on numerous organ systems (chapters 1 through 11). High-altitude diseases, including pulmonary edema, acute and chronic mountain sickness, sleep disorders, syncope, retinal hemorrhage, headache, and others, are discussed in