The Aviation Accident Experience of Civilian Airmen with Refractive Surgery: Final Report
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The Aviation Accident Experience of Civilian Airmen with Refractive Surgery: Final Report

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  • Alternative Title:
    The aviation accident experience of civilian airmen with refractive surgery.
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  • Abstract:
    Introduction: Civil airmen with refractive surgery may obtain any class of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certificate provided they meet the applicable vision standards, and an eye specialist verifies that healing is complete, visual acuity is stable, and no significant glare intolerance is present. However, concerns remain regarding the quality of the resulting refractive correction, long-term stability, side effects, and the potential surgical complications associated with refractive surgery. The purpose of this study was to determine whether an association existed between refractive surgery and aviation accidents. Methods: Records for active airman during the study period, 1994-96, were extracted from the FAA’s Consolidated Airman Information System medical database. Airmen who carried pathology codes for refractive surgery (130) and general eye surgery (5179) were identified. These records were cross-referenced with the Accident/Incident Data System database to determine those airmen involved in aircraft accidents. Frequency totals and mean accident rates (accidents/100,000 flight hours) were calculated for each class of FAA medical certification. Analysis of Variance was performed to compare the mean accident rates of non-refractive and refractive surgery airmen. Results: The total accident rate was higher for airmen with refractive surgery (3.86/100,000 flight hours) when compared with those without refractive procedures (2.62/100,000 flight hours). Accident rates for airmen with refractive surgery were also higher in all three classes of medical certification; however, analysis found that these differences were not statistically significant (p > 0.05) for any class of medical certification or the total airman population. In addition, our review found no aviation accident in which refractive surgery was identified as a causal factor. Conclusions: Although accident rates of refractive surgery airmen were higher, no direct association was identified between refractive surgery and aviation accidents. Monitoring will be ongoing to ensure that airmen with newer laser refractive procedures perform safely in the aviation environment.
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