Effect of magnesium, high altitude and acute mountain sickness on blood flow velocity in the middle cerebral artery

Christopher Lysakowski, Erik Von Elm, Lionel Dumont, Jean Daniel Junod, Edömer Tassonyi, Bengt Kayser, Martin R. Tramèr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)


Cerebral blood flow is thought to increase at high altitude and in subjects suffering from acute mountain sickness (AMS); however, data from the literature are contentious. Blood flow velocity in the middle cerebral artery (MCAv) may be used as a proxy measure of cerebral blood flow. Using transcranial Doppler sonography, MCAv was measured during normo- and hyper-ventilation in subjects who participated in a trial that tested the effect of magnesium supplementation on the prevention of AMS. First, MCAv was recorded at 353 m (baseline). Subjects were then randomized to receive oral magnesium citrate and matching placebo. A second measurement was taken after a 24 ± 2 h ascent from 1130 m to 4559 m (altitude I), and a third after a 20-24 h stay at 4559 m (altitude II). Using multivariate linear regression, an association was sought between MCAv and magnesium supplementation, subjects' age and gender, altitude itself, a temporary stay at altitude, and the presence of AMS (Lake Louise Score > 6 with ataxia, nausea and/or headache). Subjects with AMS had additional Doppler recordings immediately before and after rescue medication (oxygen, dexamethasone and acetazolamide). Forty-seven subjects had measurements at baseline, 39 (21 receiving magnesium and 18 placebo) at altitude I and 26 (13 receiving magnesium and 13 placebo) at altitude II. During hyperventilation, MCAv decreased consistently (for each measurement, P < 0.001). Magnesium significantly increased MCAv by 8.4 cm·s -1 (95 % confidence interval, 1.8-15), but did not prevent AMS. No other factors were associated with MCAv. Eleven subjects had severe AMS [median score (range), II (8-16)] and, after rescue medication, the median score decreased to 3 (range, 0-5; P = 0.001), but MCAv remained unchanged (65 ± 18 cm·s-1 before compared with 67 ± 16 cm·s-1 after rescue medication; P = 0.79). MCAv was increased in subjects who received magnesium, but was not affected by exposure to high altitude or by severe AMS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-285
Number of pages7
JournalClinical science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2004


  • Acetazolamide
  • Acute mountain sickness
  • Dexamethasone
  • Magnesium
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Regression analysis
  • Transcranial Doppler

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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