Aviation 1 – Introduction

Today we start a periodic series of posts with an aviation theme.

I am sure you have heard tropes comparing aviation and anaesthesia: human factors, crisis management, check lists, take off, cruise and landing to name a few.

You may not be aware that many physiological principles relevant to anaesthesia are also relevant in aviation and space travel.

The environmental stressors experienced by pilots and astronauts are similar to those experienced by patients, but magnitude of these stressors and the physiological effects can be more extreme.

Thinking about these effects can test and hopefully extend your understanding of the underlying principles.

There is only one primary exam learning outcome (BT_PO 1.37) that specifically mentions altitude and this has been the subject of previous posts.  There is also one in the final exam curriculum (SS_IC 1.102).

However there are many others that have relevance to aviation physiology.

BT_SQ 1.6 Describe the methods of measurement applicable to anaesthesia, including clinical utility, complications and sources of error in particular: 

  • SI units 
  • Measurement of volumes, flows, and pressures, including transducers

Pressure is measured in different ways throughout anaesthesia and a working knowledge of conversion factors between various units is important.

TRUE/FALSE  1 atmosphere (ATM) = 760 mmHg

TRUE/FALSE  29 psi = 200 kPa

TRUE/FALSE  30 cmH2O = 22 mmHg

TRUE/FALSE  5 kPa = 40 mmHg

Some harder ones:

TRUE/FALSE In aviation, altitude is measured in feet not metres

TRUE/FALSE There is an exponential decline in pressure with increasing altitude

TRUE/FALSE There is a linear decline in temperature with increasing altitude

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