Inflight Medical Emergencies

An inflight medical emergency is defined as a medical occurrence requiring the assistance of the cabin crew. It may or may not involve the use of medical equipment or drugs, and may or may not involve a request for assistance from a medical professional travelling as a passenger on the flight. Thus it can be something as simple as a headache, or a vasovagal episode, or something major such as a myocardial infarction or impending childbirth.

The incidence is comparatively low, although the media impact of an event can be significant. One major international airline recently reported 3022 incidents occurring in something over 34 million passengers carried in 1 year (Bagshaw, 1996). The breakdown of these incidents into generalised causes is shown in Table 13.3. The top six inflight emergency medical conditions reported by the same airline are shown in Table 13.4.

Any acute medical condition occurring during the course of a flight can be alarming for the passenger and crew due to the remoteness of the environment. The cabin crew receive training in advanced first aid and basic life support and the use of the emergency medical equipment carried on board the aircraft. Many airlines give training in excess of the regulatory requirement, particularly when an extended range of medical equipment is carried.

Table 13.4 Six most common inflight medical incidents reported in 1 year by a major airline (total 2522 incidents in 34 million passengers)





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