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Aviat Space Environ Med. 2012 Dec;83(12):1117-22.

Hyperintense white matter lesions in 50 high-altitude pilots with neurologic decompression sickness.

Author information

1
U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Aerospace Medicine Consultation Division, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, USA. smcguire@satx.rr.com

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Neurologic decompression sickness (NDCS) can affect high-altitude pilots, causing variable central nervous system symptoms. Five recent severe episodes prompted further investigation.

METHODS:

We report the hyperintense white matter (HWM) lesion imaging findings in 50 U-2 pilot volunteers, and compare 12 U-2 pilots who experienced clinical NDCS to 38 U-2 pilots who did not. The imaging data were collected using a 3T magnetic resonance imaging scanner and high-resolution (1-mm isotropic) three-dimensional fluid-attenuated inversion recovery sequence. Whole-brain and regional lesion volume and number were compared between groups.

RESULTS:

The NDCS group had significantly increased whole brain and insular volumes of HWM lesions. The intergroup difference in lesion numbers was not significant.

CONCLUSION:

A clinical episode of NDCS was associated with a significant increase in HWM lesion volume, especially in the insula. We postulate this to be due to hypobaric exposure rather than hypoxia since all pilots were maintained on 100% oxygen throughout the flight. Further studies will be necessary to better understand the pathophysiology underlying these lesions.

PMID:
23316539
PMCID:
PMC3723460
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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