Into Thin Air
A Case Study in Physiology
Department of Biological Sciences
California State University Sacramento
As an exhausted climbing expedition ascends a steep cliff, one climber in particular experiences severe difficulty breathing and quickly becomes the focus of this case study in which students are asked to assess the physiological changes that occur at high altitudes. The case is designed for upper division physiology students, most of who are interested in pursuing a career in the health sciences. Students are expected to have a basic knowledge of physiology of the respiratory system and some idea of how homeostatic mechanisms operate in a normal human.
- Explain the physiological changes (respiratory, cardiovascular, and otherwise) that humans encounter at high altitudes.
- Understand the pathophysiology of pulmonary edema.
- Evaluate physiological data in a “clinical” setting to make a diagnosis.
- Understand the integration of the cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems in regulating homeostatic variables such as blood gas levels, pH, etc.
- Recognize the multiple influences on blood pH.
KeywordsHigh altitude sickness; pulmonary edema; mountain climbing; Mt. Denali; Alaska
Educational LevelUndergraduate upper division
Subject HeadingsPhysiology | Sports Science |
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