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Air Travel Emergencies

Theodore E. Macnow, MD and Michelle A. Georgia, DO Reviewed 06/2020
 


BASICS

DESCRIPTION

Half of physicians report helping with an in-flight medical emergency (IME). Many IMEs fall outside a practitioner’s normal scope of practice. The aircraft environment is cramped wit...

DIAGNOSIS

HISTORY

  • Symptoms vary based on emergency; if patient is alert, gather as much history as possible.

  • Ask about past medical and surgical history, medications and compliance, and allergies.

  • Inquir...

TREATMENT

GENERAL MEASURES

  • First aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): If there is no pulse or not breathing, start CPR, basic life support, ALS, and pediatric advanced life support as appropria...

ONGOING CARE

PROGNOSIS

  • The Aviation Medical Assistance Act of 1998 protects volunteer in-flight physicians from malpractice. No physician has been successfully sued in the United States for volunteerin...

REFERENCES

1
Peterson DC, Martin-Gill C, Guyette FX, et al. Outcomes of medical emergencies on commercial airline flight. N Engl J Med.  2013;368(22):2075–2083.
2
Martin-Gill C, Doyle TJ, Yealy DM. ...

ADDITIONAL READING

Israels J, Nagelkerke AF, Markhorst DG, et al. Fitness to fly in the paediatric population, how to assess and advise. Eur J Pediatr.  2018;177(5):633–639. 

CLINICAL PEARLS

  • Medical emergencies on airplanes are common. Most are minor.

  • Equipment and drugs on board airplanes vary widely.

  • All flights are equipped with AEDs and oxygen.

  • Many airlines partner with ...

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