Aeromedical Implications of Long-Term COVID-19 Sequelae
Journal: 2021/November - Aerospace medicine and human performance
BACKGROUND: While many COVID-19 studies focus on acute effects of the infection, few examine the intermediate and long-term sequelae of the illness. Studies have shown that a good portion of patients have chronic effects in several body systems for several months or longer. Such effects can potentially adversely impact pilot performance in flight. We sought to determine the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection, how such effects can affect pilot performance, and how to best evaluate pilots for aeromedical flight clearance.METHODS: We used the PubMed literature search engine to review peer-reviewed articles that focused on the intermediate and long-term effects of COVID-19 infection. Chronic signs and symptoms were subdivided based on the particular body organ system affected. Merging information obtained from case reviews, article reviews, and aeromedical standards, we created a risk stratification guide to assist with the aeromedical disposition of affected pilots.RESULTS: Long-term effects of COVID-19 infection can last for several months or longer. The most common effects are fatigue, weakness, pulmonary diffusion defects, depression, and anxiety.DISCUSSION: This review article focuses on the most common intermediate- and long-term COVID-19 conditions of aeromedical significance and the corresponding course of actions recommended for the aeromedical examiner. Aeromedical evaluation should take into consideration factors related to the pilot, aircraft type, and specific aviation environment. Such evaluation may include diagnostic testing, medical specialist consultation, preflight simulation in an altitude chamber, human centrifuge testing, and/or a flight simulator checkride.Ko SY, Nguyen NK, Lee CL, Lee LA, Nguyen KUT, Lee EC. Aeromedical implications of long-term COVID-19 sequelae. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2021; 92(11):898-907.
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