Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introduced rules that would have forced all pilots with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more to undergo mandatory sleep apnea testing. However, protests from pilots’ groups and timely action by the House and Senate led FAA to back off and rewrite the rules, coming up with a new system for sleep apnea screening for pilots.

No Mandatory Testing

The new FAA rules allow for more flexibility for assessing pilots’ health and risk factors. FAA notes, for example, that the sleep apnea rate is higher for people with a BMI of 40 or more and a neck circumference of 17 inches. However, there would be no mandatory criteria that would force pilots to undergo mandatory testing for sleep apnea. However, the FDA’s own statistics note that of the 4917 pilots diagnosed with sleep apnea, only 347 (7%) have a BMI of 40 or greater.

Instead, pilots with significant risk factors for sleep apnea would be referred to their physicians for evaluation and assessment. If their physician recommended screening, they would be allowed to undergo testing at a sleep center or using a home sleep test.

Effective Treatment Required

In the words of FAA, “Untreated OSA has always been and will continue to be a disqualifying medical condition.” (Emphasis original.) It recommends CPAP treatment, but, unlike the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), FAA recognizes that there are different kinds of treatments that may work better for some people, and allows for any type of effective sleep apnea treatment.

In order to show that the sleep apnea treatment is effective, doctors must submit a sleep study with a polysomnogram, data about how the treatment was tailored to be effective, and a description of any medications used.

Pilots will be expected to undergo regular screenings and follow-up care to ensure the treatment remains effective.

No matter what your profession, we can help if you are looking for an effective treatment alternative to CPAP. Please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment at the TMJ Therapy and Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver.