The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently announced that on March 2, 2015, it will publish new medical guidance for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in the FAA Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs). According to the FAA, the guidance incorporates industry and Congressional feedback while addressing the concerns of the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding pilots flying with OSA. Although the FAA is not changing its medical standards related to OSA, it is revising the screening approach to help AMEs find undiagnosed and untreated OSA. The FAA expects the new guidance to improve safety and pilot health by reducing the burdens and disincentives that may have prevented some pilots from seeking an OSA evaluation and treatment.
According to an FAA Sleep Apnea in Aviation Fact Sheet, the new guidance indicates that the risk for OSA will be determined by an integrated assessment of history, symptoms, and physical/clinical findings. OSA screening by the AME and physician evaluation of pilots who are at risk for OSA will follow the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) guidelines. The FAA also reports that a laboratory sleep study or home study will not be required unless the evaluating physician determines it is warranted. The AASM will update members when the new FAA guidance is issued in March.