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BACKGROUND: Significant concern exists regarding the respiratory health of military personnel deployed to Southwest Asia, given their exposures to numerous environmental hazards. Although the deployed military force is generally assumed to be fit, the pre-deployment respiratory health of these individuals is largely unknown.
METHODS: Soldiers deploying to Southwest Asia were recruited from the pre-deployment processing center at Fort Hood, Texas. Participants completed a general and respiratory health questionnaire and performed baseline spirometry.
RESULTS: One thousand six hundred ninety-three pre-deployment evaluations were completed. The average age of the participants was 32.2 y, and 83.1% were male. More than one third of surveyed solders had a smoking history, 73% were overweight or obese, and 6.2% reported a history of asthma. Abnormal spirometry was found in 22.3% of participants. Soldiers with abnormal spirometry reported more asthma (10.1% vs 5.1%, P < .001), failed physical fitness tests (9.0% vs 4.6%, P = .02), and respiratory symptoms (32.8% vs 24.3%, P = .001).
DISCUSSION: This is the first prospective pre-deployment evaluation of military personnel that delineates factors potentially associated with the development of pulmonary symptoms and/or disease. This study suggests that deploying soldiers are older, heavier, frequently smoke, and may have undiagnosed pre-deployment lung disease. Abnormal spirometry is common but may not represent underlying disease. Self-reported asthma, wheezing, and slower 2-mile run times were predictive of abnormal spirometry.
CONCLUSIONS: Pre-deployment evaluation of military personnel identified numerous soldiers with active pulmonary symptoms and abnormal spirometry. When combined with questions regarding asthma history, wheezing and exercise intolerance, spirometry may identify individuals at risk for deployment-related respiratory complaints.
- Correspondence: Andrew J Skabelund Maj USAF MC MD, Pulmonary Disease Service (MCHE-ZDM-P), San Antonio Military Medical Center, 3551 Roger Brooke Drive, JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234. E-mail: .
The authors have disclosed no conflicts of interest.
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