Oxygen Mask Related Nasal Integument and Osteocartilagenous Disorders in F-16 Fighter Pilots

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Abstract

BackgroundA preliminary survey showed half of the participating Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16 fighter pilots to have nasal integument and osteocartilagenous disorders related to wearing in-flight oxygen masks.AimTo make an inventory of these disorders and possible associated factors.MethodsAll RNLAF F-16 pilots were requested to fill out a semi-structured questionnaire for a cross-sectional survey. Additionally, one squadron in The Netherlands and pilots in operational theater were asked to participate in a prospective study that required filling out a pain score after each flight. Pilot- and flight-related variables on all participants were collected from the RNLAF database. A linear mixed model was built to identify associated factors with the post-flight pain score.ResultsThe response rate to the survey was 83%. Ninety of the 108 participants (88%, 6 missing) reported tenderness, irritation, pain, erythema, skin lesions, callous skin, or swelling of nasal bridge integument or architecture. Seventy-two participants (71%, 6 missing) reported their symptoms to be troublesome after a mean of 6±3 out of 10 flights (0;10, 54 missing). Sixty-six pilots participated in scoring post-flight pain. Pain scores were significantly higher if a participant had ≥3 nasal disorders, after longer than average flights, after flying abroad, and after flying with night vision goggles (respectively +2.7 points, p = 0.003; +0.2 points, p = 0.027; +1.8 points, p = 0.001; +1.2 points p = 0.005). Longer than average NVG flights and more than average NVG hours per annum decreased painscores (respectively −0.8 points, p = 0.017; −0.04 points, p = 0.005).ConclusionsThe majority of the RNLAF F-16 fighter pilot community has nasal disorders in the contact area of the oxygen mask, including pain. Six pilot- or flight-related characteristics influence the experienced level of pain.

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Schreinemakers, J. R. C., Westers, P., van Amerongen, P., & Kon, M. (2013). Oxygen Mask Related Nasal Integument and Osteocartilagenous Disorders in F-16 Fighter Pilots. PLoS ONE, 8(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0056251

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