Pediatric High Altitude Cerebral Edema in the Nepal Himalayas

Author Department

Emergency Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



High altitude cerebral edema (HACE) is a rare complication of ascent to altitudes of over 2500 m (8200 ft). We are not aware of a previously published case report of HACE in a patient under the age of 18 y. We report on 2 cases of suspected HACE in 2 patients, aged 12 and 16 y, who presented to the Manang Himalayan Rescue Association clinic at 3500 m. The 16-y-old patient presented with severe headache, vomiting, and ataxia after rapid ascent to 3800 m. The 12-y-old patient presented with severe headache, vomiting, visual disturbances, and ataxia at 4500 m, which began to resolve with descent to the clinic at 3500 m. Our cases suggest that HACE can occur in children and adolescents. Because there are no specific guidelines for treatment of acute mountain sickness or HACE in patients under the age of 18 y, we recommend treatment as for adults: oxygen, immediate descent, and dexamethasone. Simulated descent in a portable hyperbaric chamber can be used if oxygen is not available and if actual descent is not possible.