Recommended Use of Pulse Oximetry in Aviation

The FAA requirement regarding use of supplemental oxygen -- FAR 91.211 -- is based on studies done long ago, before the development of today's non-invasive technology for measuring actual blood oxygen saturation, known as pulse oximetry. Since the FAA has not yet provided any official recommendations for the use of pulse oximetry in flight, AVweb's aviation medicine editor Brent Blue M.D. offers guidelines for using these marvelous "hypoxia meters" by pilots and passengers.

Blood Pressure Basics For Pilots

High blood pressure is a silent killer that -- if left untreated -- can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. Modern medicine offers highly effective treatments for hypertension, but many pilots are reluctant to deal with the problem for fear of creating difficulties when they apply for their FAA medical. Such fears are largely unfounded, because in recent years the FAA has adopted a far more enlightened attitude toward hypertension. Michael Sebastian, M.D., offers everything you need to know about blood pressure but were afraid to ask: how BP is regulated by the body, what causes it to become elevated, why that's so dangerous to your health, what treatments and medications are available, and which ones have the FAA's blessing. Fascinating reading, whether you suffer from hypertension or not.

The FAA Throws AMEs A Curve

EDITORIAL: The Spring 1999 issue of the "Federal Air Surgeon's Medical Bulletin" came as a shock to the nation's Aviation Medical Examiners. It announced a new plan whereby AMEs would be required to transmit FAA Form 8500-8 medical applications to Oklahoma City via the Internet, starting October 1, 1999. That was expected. What was completely unexpected -- and unwelcome -- was a requirement that this data be entered online, transmitted to OKC, and validated by a new FAA computer system before the AME may issue a new medical certificate to the airman applicant. AVweb's Brent Blue explains why this new scheme will probably mean delays and higher exam fees for pilots.

How Does Oxygen Work?

The clearest explanation we're ever read concerning the use of supplemental oxygen in high-altitude flight. The author, who is an anesthesiologist and internist as well as a private pilot, explains clearly how the osygen we breathe gets to where it's going, what it does when it gets there, and what happens when we don't get enough. Also why conserving cannulas are so effective at stretching our O2 supply, and why they aren't recommended above FL180.

Altitude Decompression Sickness: Tiny Bubbles, Big Troubles

Most of us who fly unpressurized aircraft at altitudes of 18,000 feet and above don't have a full understanding of the significant medical risks involved and or precautionary measures we should take. The following lecture by two researchers at the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) and transcribed by AVweb medical consultant Brent Blue is by far the best discussion of this subject we've seen. It is "must" reading for anyone who flies at the flight levels.

The Controversy Over “Monovision” Lenses

In October 1996 at New York's LaGuardia airport, a Delta MD-88 (Flight 554) clipped an approach light tower, slammed onto the runway and skidded nearly into Flushing Bay. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the captains use of so-called "monovision" contact lenses which correct one eye for distance vision and the other eye for close-up vision. Dr. Brent Blue, a Senior AME and AVweb's chief aeromedical consultant, thinks the NTSB's conclusion is nonsense, as does Dr. Robert Liddell, past director of aviation medicine in Australia. Nevertheless, the FAA's official position is that pilots may not use "monovision" contacts. Dr. Bryan Angle expresses an opposing view that supports the NTSB findings, while opthalmologist/AME Neil Murray says the NTSB was on the wrong track.

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