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Special Environment - Mountain

Module titleSpecial Environment - Mountain
Module codeHPDM073
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Malcolm Hilton (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module builds on knowledge and skills introduced in the Extreme Medicine Masters programme 'Core Concepts' module in year 1. The taught component of the module is all delivered during an ascent to altitude in an overseas location, normally Nepal.

Module aims - intentions of the module

In this module you will critically examine the challenges of providing safe and effective healthcare in a mountain and high altitude environment. You will focus not only on the evaluation of health issues to be expected in the field, but the planning and preparation phase for activities in the mountains. You will reflect in more depth on the ethical, professional and legal challenges of delivering medical care in high altitude environments.


Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Define and demonstrate an understanding of the physiological changes the human body undergoes as it ascends to high altitude.
  • 2. Critically appraise the available evidence for high altitude medical interventions

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Apply your critical appraisal conclusions to medical decision making in extreme environments
  • 4. Demonstrate competence and understanding in the planning and provision of safe, effective medical cover for a high altitude expedition

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Collaborate with peers to experience the value of shared and supported learning in a high fidelity context
  • 6. Evaluate and experience the effects of mild to moderate physiological stress (cold, altitude, tiredness) on self and team dynamics, and be able to apply this experience to future roles.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, an example of an overall structure is as follows:

Physiological changes in humans that occur on ascent to altitude

Physiological adaptations to high altitude

Safe ascent profiles

Acclimatisation to high altitude

Impact of high altitude on common long term medical conditions

Acute mountain sickness: evidence for risks, prevention, prophylaxis

Scoring systems for acute mountain sickness and their relevance

High altitude cerebral oedema: evidence for risks, prevention, prophylaxis

High altitude pulmonary oedema: evidence for risks, prevention, prophylaxis

High altitude retinopathy and ultraviolet keratitis

Changes in psychology and decision making abilities at high altitude

Critical appraisal of coroners reports following high altitude deaths



Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching30Residential course: Lectures, seminars, master-classes, practical exercises and group work in specialist areas, and contemporary debates
Guided Independent Study80Reading and preparation for scheduled sessions and coursework. Web-based learning; resource gathering and in-depth reading during the period of module delivery.
Guided Independent Study40Preparation and writing of assignments.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group reflection and discussionWorkshop within course1-6

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written assignment 100Equivalent to 2000 words of written assignment 1-6 Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written assignment 2000 words1-6Typically within six weeks of the result

Re-assessment notes

Please see the Student Handbook for advice


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  1. Doctor on Everest: Emergency Medicine at the Top of the World - a Personal Account of the 1996 Disaster – Kenneth Kamler


  2. Oxford Handbook of Expedition and Wilderness Medicine. 2nd Edition Chris Johnson, Sarah R Anderson, Jon Dallimore, Chris Imray, Shane Winser, James Moore and David A. Warrell—Oxford University Press, May 2015. ISBN: 9780199688418. £34.99

  3. Wilderness Medical Society consensus guidelines for the prevention and treatment of acute altitude illness.


  4. Luks AM1, McIntosh SE, Grissom CK, Auerbach PS, Rodway GW, Schoene RB, Zafren K, Hackett PH; Wilderness Medical Society.


  5. Wilderness Environ Med. 2010 Jun;21(2):146-55. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2010.03.002. Epub 2010 Mar 10.


  6. The High Altitude Medicine Handbook, 3rd edition, by Andrew J. Pollard and David R. Murdoch


  7. Acute altitude illnesses BMJ 2011; 343 doi:

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Mountain, environment, extreme medicine

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date