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Free Content Asymptomatic Brain Lesions in Pilots: A Comparative Study with Non-Flying Personnel Using Brain MRI

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Lim D, Park J, Choi W-H, Bang D-H, Jung O, Kang S. Asymptomatic brain lesions in pilots: a comparative study with nonflying personnel using brain MRI. Aviat Space Environ Med 2012; 83:865–71.

Introduction: As modern aircraft fly at higher altitudes with rapid velocity, pilots have been put in the environment with a possible increasing risk of brain injury and could sustain cumulative brain damage. However, very few studies have investigated brain lesions using MRI in asymptomatic pilots. We evaluated asymptomatic pilots for the presence of cerebral lesions using MRI. Methods: Enrolled were 31 healthy pilots of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) on active flight duty and 31 healthy nonflying ROKAF personnel with ages of or over 45. We checked for the presence of acute and/or chronic medical conditions, smoking habits, alcohol intake, blood pressure, blood tests including lipid panel, glucose, and liver panel, aircraft type, flight hours, flight altitude, and white matter hyperintensities (WMH) on brain MRI. Result: The mean age of both groups was 51.2 yr and the mean total flight hours of the pilots was 3025.0 h. There was no statistical difference between the pilots and nonflying personnel for WMH findings (54.8% vs. 32.3%). Of the factors related to flight, only the flying altitude (OR 1.005) was significantly related to the presence of WMH on multivariate analysis. Glucose levels and cholesterol levels were also related to WMH. Discussion: Despite our negative results, there could be the possibility of cumulative brain damage in asymptomatic pilots considering the positive effect of altitude and the positive trend of pilots for the presence of WMH. Additional investigations are surely needed.
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Keywords: DCS; altitude decompression sickness; cumulative effect; white matter hyperintensity

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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