A brain swelling condition related to low oxygen levels in the air could be the cause of death for many people climbing Mount Everest, according to a new study by an international team of doctors.
The team, led by Paul Firth of Massachusetts General Hospital, studied the 212 reported deaths from 1921 to 2006 on Mount Everest, the highest on Earth. Hazards awaiting those who dare to climb the 29,000-foot (8,850 meter) Himalayan mountain include extreme cold, whipping winds, changing weather, treacherous climbs and avalanches. Oxygen content in the air is only a third of that at sea level.
Firth said that while the cause of some deaths could not be determined with certainty, many appeared to have been the result of high-altitude cerebral edema. In this condition, low oxygen levels cause cerebral blood vessels to leak fluid into surrounding brain tissue, triggering swelling. Confusion and loss of coordination follow.
Source: MSNBC.com,Study Unveils Likely Cause of Mt. Everest Deaths