Children with Down syndrome (DS) are living longer and are increasingly participating in recreational activities. When a child with DS was diagnosed with high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), this study was undertaken to determine whether and under what circumstances children with DS develop HAPE.


A retrospective review of the medical records of Children's Hospital, Denver, Colorado was performed for children with a discharge diagnosis of HAPE. Diagnostic criteria for HAPE included the presence of crackles or frothy sputum production on examination, hypoxemia, chest radiograph findings consistent with pulmonary edema, and rapid clinical improvement after descent or oxygen therapy.


A total of 52 patients with HAPE were found of whom 6 also had DS. The age range of the children with DS was 2 to 14 years. HAPE developed at altitudes ranging from 1738 to 3252 m. Four children developed HAPE within 24 hours of arrival to altitude. Three children had chronic pulmonary hypertension, and 4 had either an existing cardiac defect with left-to-right shunt or previously had a defect with left-to-right shunt that had been repaired. One child had Eisenmenger syndrome with chronic right-to-left shunting of blood. Five children had preexisting illnesses before travel to altitude.


Children with DS often have medical problems such as chronic pulmonary hypertension, frequent infections, and pulmonary vascular overperfusion and injury from existing or previous cardiac defects. These problems all may be viewed as risk factors for HAPE and thus result in the rapid development of HAPE at low altitudes. Care should be taken when traveling to even moderate altitudes with children with DS.

You do not currently have access to this content.