High Altitude (flying, skiing)

Discussions of issues related to living with cavernous angiomas

High Altitude (flying, skiing)

Postby OhNo » Fri Aug 03, 2018 4:41 pm

I'm still learning about this condition and am on my 4th neurologist. This one seems to know his stuff.

It appears that I had my first episode while skiing. The mountain was over 9,000', the drop 3400' and the lodge was at 5000'. Not sure exactly when it happened during my week vacation, but at some point, my memory started to fail, not completely, just odd that I couldn't remember some things. I seemed to be better at home (near sea level), but was never quite the same after.

I had a few episodes of memory lapses after that and then 18 months later, a seizure that caused a 1-car accident. Finally got a poorly-done MRI, and a year later a good one that found a small right temporal lobe CCM that had bled. I've been on Keppra since then and no seizures since, thankfully. Waiting for neurosurgeon opinions....

Anyhow, I'm concerned about flying and mountain vacations. From what I've read, most people can fly ok. I've only flown a few times post-accident. Also, if anyone didn't already know this:
In a typical commercial passenger flight, the cabin altitude is programmed to rise gradually from the altitude of the airport of origin to a regulatory maximum of 8,000 ft (2,400 m).

I've been a skier and scuba diver for many years, but apparently I'm better off not doing either any more. I would like to continue to travel. Has anyone here had any problems with travel? And has surgery helped, or made travel worse?
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Re: High Altitude (flying, skiing)

Postby Elizabeth » Sat Aug 04, 2018 6:04 am


Glad u found us. Smart to keep looking for a good doctor...so few of them know anything about cavernous angiomas. I went through 10 neurologists and never found a good one.. Anyways, as far as your questions...I have flown many times...no problems. I used to be an avid snowboarder...traveling to many high altitude places for good snow. I always got headaches, but didn't know about my angiomas at the time and I would take Excedrin like crazy...bad idea...hind sight is 20/20. I scuba dived once and hated it. I got super sea sick and came up barfing...never to be repeated. I had surgery for my angiomas 7 years ago and I don't snow board anymore, but I've been to the mountains a few time. I still get sick for the first few days then it takes a few days at home(near sea level) and I feel better. I think you mostly have to listen to your body.
Diagnosed September '09 with one CM centered in the right insular cortex/basal ganglia. Saw many, many doctors and had surgery 12/10/10 with Dr. Spetzler. I am thrilled to have this bleeding thing out of my head even though I suffered a stroke during surgery. Have had/ continue to make an amazing recovery. http://www.thankfulforeveryday.blogspot.com
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Re: High Altitude (flying, skiing)

Postby OhNo » Mon Aug 06, 2018 1:54 pm

A little more research and discussion with the neurologist -- looks like I will be OK to fly but not ski. 2500 meters (8200') is significant, so only a 200' margin of error over being in a plane. I know a couple of people who have had issues skiing in Utah, one stroke, one TIA. So if one has a weakness known or unknown, the potential for problems exists. Hopefully, surgery totally removes that for those who have only one CCM. I hadn't planned to ski again, but since there are parks etc in mountains, I was tying to figure out what limitations I will have going forward. This is one of the references I found online:

Other features of altitude sickness include fatigue, digestive problems, weakness and dizziness. They are all caused by the decrease in the partial pressure of oxygen at altitudes above around 2500 m, as the number of oxygen molecules in a given volume drops. This produces an associated decrease in the concentration of oxygen in the blood and results in less oxygen reaching the brain. After a few days, most people naturally acclimatise and the symptoms of altitude sickness disappear.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2 ... 085639.htm
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Re: High Altitude (flying, skiing)

Postby Roger » Thu Aug 23, 2018 9:35 pm

I've always wondered about this as well. I'd like to start camping again, going to about 6500 feet. I live at basically sea level. Dr.'s say "ya you should be ok" lol. Thanks for the vote of confidence. But I know everyone is different so maybe just time to man up and go up there, see what happens. I'm about 13 months removed from my bleed. If flying is safe in cabins typically pressurized to the equivalent of 8000 ft., I don't see how going up to 6500 feet will do too much. Tho, camping is for a couple days. Not sure what is considered "high altitude" before even altitude sickness kicks in, tho I have read it can be as little as 2500-3000 meters.
For the skiing issue, maybe the fact that there is strenuous activity involved also doesnt help. There really isnt a black & white answer as it can differ person to person it seems. Maybe try skiing at a lower altitude? Not sure how high you go typically.
Just gotta get out there and live your life, with SOME precautions I guess.
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High Altitude flying skiing

Postby MathewTrusa » Thu Jan 10, 2019 2:58 am

I was about to ask the same question - oxygen. As mentioned, the service ceiling is well above 20,000 ft but no way we can operate at those altitudes without oxygen mask. It would be a great addition not only to the Texan but also to some other A2A birds so that high altitude flying is possible for longer periods.

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Re: High Altitude (flying, skiing)

Postby bjradin » Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:30 am

Personally, I lived in Colorado and frequently went to high altitude with even cycling to 14000 feet on Mt Evans. I never had any issues even after I moved to 9000 feet. Five years after my move, I had my only bleed (brainstem cavernoma) from minor truama while on aspirin(landing an accidental sommersault skiing). Symptoms began after about 24 hours later. I continued to ski and live at high altitude with no further problems for 3 more years. Now, for an additional 3 years, I live at sea level unrelated to the cavernoma, and do very regular aerobic exercise. I also return to ski in Colorado up to 13000 feet without difficulty. While I seem to tolerate altitude, maybe not all of us can.
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