Background: Chronic respiratory symptoms are frequently reported after Southwest Asia deployment in support of combat operations. The full spectrum of clinical lung diseases related to these deployments is not well characterized. Methods: Military personnel with chronic symptoms, primarily exertional dyspnea, underwent a standardized cardiopulmonary evaluation at two tertiary medical centers. Pulmonary function testing consisted of spirometry, lung volume, diffusing capacity, impulse oscillometry, and bronchodilator testing. Further testing included methacholine challenge, exercise laryngoscopy, high-resolution CT scan, ECG, and transthoracic echocardiography. Results: A total of 380 participants with a mean age of 38.5 ± 8.4 years completed testing. Asthma was the most common diagnosis in 87 patients (22.9%) based on obstructive spirometry/impulse oscillometry and evidence of airway hyperreactivity, whereas another 57 patients (15.0%) had reactivity with normal spirometry. Airway disorders included 25 (6.6%) with laryngeal disorders and 16 (4.2%) with excessive dynamic airway collapse. Interstitial lung disease was identified in six patients (1.6%), whereas 11 patients (2.9%) had fixed obstructive lung disorders. Forty patients (10.5%) had isolated pulmonary function abnormalities and 16 (4.2%) had miscellaneous disorders. The remaining 122 patients (32.1%) with normal studies were classified as undiagnosed exertional dyspnea. Significant comorbidities identified included elevated BMI > 30 kg/m2 (34.2%), smoking (36.4%), positive allergy testing (43.7%), sleep apnea (38.5%), and esophageal reflux (13.6%). Mental health disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder were likewise common. Conclusions: Postdeployment pulmonary evaluation should focus on common diseases, such as asthma and airway hyperreactivity, and include testing for upper airway disorders. Diffuse lung diseases were rarely diagnosed, whereas numerous comorbidities were common.
- airway hyperresponsiveness
- military personnel
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine