Reversible Increase of Central Choroidal Thickness During High-Altitude Exposure.
Fischer MD., Schatz A., Seitz IP., Schommer K., Bartz-Schmidt KU., Gekeler F., Willmann G.
PURPOSE: This study aimed to quantify the impact of high altitude on choroidal thickness and relate changes of altered choroidal blood flow to clinical parameters and acute mountain sickness (AMS). This work is related to the Tübingen High Altitude Ophthalmology (THAO) study. METHODS: Enhanced depth imaging spectral-domain optical coherence tomography was used to quantify macular choroidal layer thickness. Peripheral oxygen saturation, heart rate, and AMS scores were assessed in eight healthy subjects at baseline (altitude, 341 m) and at altitude (4559 m) for respective correlations. RESULTS: Longitudinal analysis revealed a significant (P = 0.011, ANOVA) increase in central choroidal thickness (CCT) during altitude exposure (CCT baseline = 271 ± 9 μm; CCT altitude = 288 ± 9 μm) due to an increased choroidal blood flow. Incidence of AMS at altitude was 50%, peripheral oxygen saturation decreased by 25%, and heart rate increased by 39%. All changes were completely reversible after descent to low altitudes. CONCLUSIONS: A small but significant increase in choroidal thickness was observed upon acute altitude exposure to 4559 m. This increase in choroidal blood flow was not related to AMS and was fully reversible after return to low altitude.