For many years, I have been concerned about the lack of screening policies in regards to sleep apnea and pilots. I have met several pilots over the years within my practice that where high risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Many of these pilots refused to move forward through proper diagnostic procedures for a fear of losing their jobs if OSA was confirmed.
In the mean time, the negative affects if OSA I present in these pilots and not treated can lead to catastrophic aircraft incidents. Lack of alertness, excessive daytime sleepiness, and overall ‘foggy feeling’ is common in individuals who have untreated OSA.
Here’s an excerpt from AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) article.
“The aviation community has been up in arms since Federal Air Surgeon Fred Tilton announced that the FAA would be releasing a new policy that would require aviation medical examiners to calculate a pilot’s body mass index (BMI), and require those with a BMI of 40 or greater to get tested for OSA by a physician who is a board-certified sleep specialist and treated, if diagnosed, before being issued a medical certificate. Tilton stated that obstructive sleep apnea is almost universal in individuals with a BMI of 40 or greater and neck size of at least 17 inches. However, he said the agency would continue ratcheting down the BMI number “until we have identified and assured treatment for every airman with OSA.” He said the policy would later extend to air traffic controllers as well.”
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