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Home > Medical Examination > Lung Collapse (Spontaneous pneumothorax) - Is prolonged flying at high altitude going to have an impact on my flying career?
Lung Collapse (Spontaneous pneumothorax) - Is prolonged flying at high altitude going to have an impact on my flying career?
Pilot Career - Medical Examination
Thursday, 03 November 2011 07:37

Pneumothorax Chest X-Ray

Hello Capt Lim,

Thank you for taking some time to read this.

I'm an 18 year old student that is going to be choosing what career to follow up on very soon and applying to an appropriate University. One of the professions on my radar is that of the commercial pilot.

I've read up on everything that I've been able to find on both health requirements and health risks.

Regarding those subjects, I've undergone 3 spontaneous pneumothorax's (lung collapse) which finally ended up being corrected by surgery. According to medical Class 1 requirements, a correction by surgery is sufficient to calm their state of mind about my license, but it hasn't been enough to calm mine.

Even though I am now a very long time after surgery and considered a perfectly healthy person, I can't help but wonder the following:

Is prolonged flying at high altitude going to have an impact on my well-being, or can I, as with any other profession, work perfectly fine until I hit the age of 65 to retire?

On a side-note, I am fully aware of the high altitude cosmic radiation and deep vein thrombosis, but those two risks are of much too low importance for me to avoid flying. My real focus is on the risks that could actually pose a threat to my well-being and therefore my career.

Thank you and I'm looking forward to an answer.

Adrian

Hi Adrian,

I am not a doctor and from what I have read, your medical problem - lung collapse or spontaneous pneumothorax (SP), is a relatively common condition among the general population and is often considered benign as it usually heals automatically. Although it heal by itself without treatment, recurrence is likely.

It will worsen as ambient pressure decreases such as at altitude and it will therefore affect a pilot due to the nature of his work.

One study reported that only 12% of aircrew pneumothoraces occurred while in flight.  For this reason, aircrews who suffer a SP are generally grounded until they have received adequate treatment.

NASA currently has the strictest medical guidelines with regard to SP. Entry into the aerospace program is possible only if the SP has been surgically corrected and no recurrence has been demonstrated within five years.

In your case, you have recovered after surgery but I cannot say how long you would remain so and when it would affect you as an aircrew in the future. Only an authorized aviation medical examiner would be able to answer your question.

I wish you all the best.

PS. To check for any latest updates or postings, you can follow my new Twitter at @CaptKHLim


ATPL Class 1 Medical

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