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Peripheral Neuropathy in Military Aircraft Maintenance Workers in Australia

Guest, Maya BOHS, BMedSci (Hon); Attia, John R. PhD, MD; D'Este, Catherine A. PhD; Boggess, May M. PhD; Brown, Anthony M. MPH; Gibson, Richard E. GradDip (Med Stats); Tavener, Meredith A. PhD; Ross, James MPH; Gardner, Ian MPH; Harrex, Warren MSc (OccMed)

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: April 2011 - Volume 53 - Issue 4 - p 381–387
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e318212226d
Original Articles

Objective: This study aimed to examine possible persisting peripheral neuropathy in a group who undertook fuel tank repairs on F-111 aircraft, relative to two contemporaneous comparison groups.

Methods: Vibration perception threshold (VPT) was tested using biothesiometry in 614 exposed personnel, compared with two unexposed groups (513 technical trades and 403 nontrades). Regression modeling was used to examine associations, adjusting for possible confounders.

Results: We observed that 26% of participants had chronic persistent increased VPT in the great toe. In contrast, statistically significant higher VPT of the great toe was observed in the comparison groups; however, the effect was small, about 1/4 the magnitude of diabetes. Age, height, and diabetes were all significant and strong predictors in most models.

Conclusion: This study highlights chronic persisting peripheral neuropathy in a population of aircraft maintainers.

From the Faculty of Health (Ms Guest, Drs Attia and D'Este, Mr Gibson, and the SHOAMP study team), University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia; Department of Mathematics (Dr Boggess), Texas A & M University, College Station, Tex; School of Rural Health (Dr Brown), University of Sydney, Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia; Department of Defense (Drs Ross and Gardner), Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia; Department of Veterans' Affairs (Dr Harrex and Scientific Advisory Committee), Woden, Australian Capital Territory, Australia; Population Research Centre (Dr Tavener), University of Groningen, the Netherlands.

Address correspondence to: Maya Guest, School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health, Hunter Bldg, University of Newcastle, University Dr, Callaghan NSW 2308, Australia,.

©2011The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine