Inflight medical emergencies

Aviat Space Environ Med. 2000 Aug;71(8):832-8.


This report responds to resolutions asking the American Medical Association (AMA) to develop recommendations for the use of medical equipment and technology onboard commercial airlines. Information for the report was derived from a search of the MEDLINE database and references listed in pertinent articles, as well as through communications with experts in aerospace and emergency medicine. Based on this information, the AMA Council on Scientific Affairs determined that, while inflight morbidity and mortality are uncommon, serious events do occur, which require immediate emergency care. Management of serious problems requires an integrated emergency response system that ensures rapid notification of medical personnel on the ground, assistance from appropriately trained flight crews and passenger volunteers (if available), and adequate medical supplies and equipment to stabilize the victim. Physicians have an important role in the preflight evaluation and counseling of potential passengers who are at risk of inflight medical complications, and in providing inflight medical assistance. Some U.S. and foreign air carriers are upgrading inflight emergency medical kits and placing automated external defibrillators aboard aircraft. Few data are available regarding the effectiveness of such improvements in improving health or survival outcomes. Recent federal legislation requires assessment of the extent of inflight medical emergencies, including the adequacy of emergency medical supplies and equipment carried onboard commercial airliners. This legislation also should alleviate liability concerns by providing immunity for physicians and others who render inflight medical assistance.

MeSH terms

  • Aerospace Medicine*
  • Aircraft*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control
  • Electric Countershock
  • Emergencies*
  • Equipment and Supplies*
  • First Aid
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Public Policy
  • Telemedicine / instrumentation