CASE Medicine
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NEWS: 21st Aug 2010
Muscle Madness

Today eight of our climbers have had their muscles measured. Competition is fierce! The boys and girls all want to know whether they are wasting away at altitude in comparison to their sea level testing measurements. Our lunch consisted of delicious homemade lasagna, both meat and pesto, a real treat for the long-suffering vegetarians! How could we waste away even at 4559m?

Meal preparation understandably is quite challenging at 4559m and Group A particularly suffered. During their week here, the helicopter was unable to land with fresh provisions due to very windy conditions. The usual diet consists of pasta and meat, or pasta and cheese for vegetarians with chocolate or vanilla pudding. Fortunately we had fine weather yesterday and the long awaited helicopter delivered all sorts of treats.

For muscle mass measurements we are doing repeated measurements on subjects at three sites: biceps, forearm and thigh muscles. This method has been used in the intensive care unit to measure muscle mass change in patients. Through their immobility and severe illness patients lose a substantial amount of muscle mass, between 1-2% of their muscle per day.

Climbers at high altitude similarly experience muscle mass loss which impedes overall performance in the mountains. On our previous expedition, Caudwell Xtreme Everest, muscle mass loss was significant; we are therefore piloting this method of measuring muscle mass change at altitude with a Sonosite Micromaxx ultrasound machine. Subjects will be measured twice during our visit here to the Margherita hut and this will be compared to the measurements made at sea level. Hopefully this test could easily be incorporated into future studies planned at altitude.

By Liesl Wandrag