Mease Countryside Hospital Offers High Altitude Simulation Test

Jan 08, 2013, 15:18 ET from Mease Countryside Hospital

SAFETY HARBOR, Fla., Jan. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mease Countryside Hospital is among the first hospitals in Florida to offer a test that will help determine whether people with certain lung diseases need additional oxygen – and if so, how much – when they are flying on commercial airplanes.

"With the High Altitude Simulation Test, we can mimic the air someone would breathe on an airplane," said Robert Stein, MD, pulmonologist and medical director of Respiratory Care Services at Mease hospitals. "When someone has this test done, we are able to carefully measure how they respond to the change in altitude. This tells us if they need extra oxygen when they fly, and if they do, exactly how much is needed."

Planes are pressurized to between 8,000-10,000 feet, though most flights cruise at between 30,000 feet and 40,000 feet. At sea level, there is 21 percent oxygen. At 8,000 to 10,000 feet, there is 15 percent oxygen.

Healthy individuals will compensate for the drop in oxygen, but people with chronic lung diseases, such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, COPD, asthma, or pulmonary fibrosis, or certain cardiac conditions may need additional oxygen.

Until now, there was not a reliable way to know exactly how much more oxygen to give these patients. But the High Altitude Simulation Test, or HAST, conducted at the Mease Countryside Hospital Pulmonary Lab, helps determine this. It simulates the air a patient would breathe on an airplane pressurized to 9,000 feet by providing a mix of 15 percent oxygen with balanced nitrogen, which has been specially created for BayCare Health System.

For approximately 20 minutes, a licensed respiratory therapist monitors the patient's vital signs, including oxygen levels, during the test. A drop in their oxygen saturation rate indicates that the patient would need more oxygen when flying on an airplane.

"Once your physician knows the appropriate amount of oxygen a patient will need when flying on an airplane, he or she can write a prescription so the patient can work with their airline to ensure that they will have the correct amount of oxygen for their flight" said Dr. Stephen Brown, a pulmonologist and co-director of Respiratory Care Services at the Mease hospitals.

A physician's order is required to take the High Altitude Simulation Test. People who are interested should ask their primary care physician or pulmonologist for information.

To take a free, seven-minute lung disease risk assessment, visit

About Mease Countryside Hospital

Mease Countryside Hospital is a 300-bed facility committed to improving the health of everyone it serves. Mease Countryside has been awarded nine Top 100 Hospital designations in the areas of stroke, orthopedic, intensive care and overall care. The hospital was awarded Magnet Designation for the second time by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the most prestigious national recognition of excellence in nursing care. Mease Countryside Hospital is located at 3231 McMullen Booth Rd., Safety Harbor, Fla., (727) 725-6111.

About BayCare Health System

BayCare Health System is a leading community-based health system in the Tampa Bay area. Composed of a network of 10 not-for-profit hospitals, outpatient facilities and services such as imaging, lab, behavioral health and home health care, BayCare provides expert medical care throughout a patient's lifetime. With more than 200 access points conveniently located throughout Tampa Bay, BayCare connects patients to a complete range of preventive, diagnostic and treatment services for any health care need. 

BayCare's family of hospitals are: Mease Countryside, Mease Dunedin, Morton Plant, Morton Plant North Bay, St. Anthony's, St. Joseph's, St. Joseph's Children's, St. Joseph's Hospital-North, St. Joseph's Women's, and South Florida Baptist. For more information, visit BayCare on the Web at

SOURCE Mease Countryside Hospital