PURPOSE: Recent evidence suggested that deployment of military personnel to the theater of operations in Southwest Asia may have lead to a higher incidence of asthma (6.6%) compared to non-deployed soldiers (4.3%). We sought to investigate in active duty personnel if there is a true correlation between increases in the diagnosis of asthma or severity based on deployment history.
METHODS: A retrospective chart review was conducted of active duty Army personnel who underwent a medical evaluation board (determination of fitness for duty) with the diagnosis of asthma from 2005 to 2009. Outpatient records were reviewed to determine the following parameters concerning their asthma diagnosis to include: deployment history, onset of asthma symptoms (pre or post deployment), severity of disease, spirometry parameters (FEV1, FVC, FEV1/FVC, FEF25-75, bronchoprovocation testing, and treatment course. A comparison was made between those personnel with asthma based on history of deployment.
RESULTS: A list of 1445 military personnel with asthma was generated from the Medical Evaluation Board database and 50 records have been reviewed to date. The majority of the patients (80%) were male and the average age at diagnosis was 26.5 years. Only 20 (40%) of the asthmatics had been deployed and 50% of these patients were diagnosed post deployment based on new pulmonary symptoms. Notably, 25% of the deployed asthmatics had a remote history prior to active duty service. Asthma severity was mild persistent in 30% and moderate persistent in 65% in deployed asthmatics compared to 43% and 37% in non-deployed asthmatics.
CONCLUSION: In active duty military personnel undergoing a medical board evaluation for asthma, there is an overall higher percentage of non-deployed asthmatics. However, approximately 20% of asthmatics appear to have new onset of symptoms during deployment.
CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: While there is no clear relationship between military deployment and the development of asthma, new onset pulmonary symptoms may be related to deployment exposures.
DISCLOSURE: Sally DelVecchio, No Financial Disclosure Information; No Product/Research Disclosure Information