Inflight Emergencies During Eurasian Flights

J Travel Med. Nov-Dec 2015;22(6):361-7. doi: 10.1111/jtm.12230. Epub 2015 Jul 23.


Background: This study evaluated the incidence and status of urgent medical conditions, the attitudes of health professionals who encounter such conditions, the adequacy of medical kits and training of cabin crew in data-received-company aircrafts suggested by Aerospace Medical Association, and the demographic data of patients.

Methods: Data were collected from medical records of a major flight company from 2011 through 2013. All patients with complete records were included in the study. Numerical variables were defined as median and interquartiles (IQR) for median, while categorical variables were defined as numbers and percentage.

Results: During the study period, 10,100,000 passengers were carried by the company flights, with 1,312 (0.013%) demands for urgent medical support (UMS). The median age of the passengers who requested UMS was 45 years (IQR: 29-62). Females constituted 698 (53.2%) among the patients, and 721 (55%) patients were evaluated by medical professionals found among passengers. The most common nontraumatic complaints resulting in requests for UMS were flight anxiety (311 patients, 23.7%) and dyspnea (145 patients, 11%). The most common traumatic complaint was burns (221 patients, 16.8%) resulting from trauma during flight. A total of 22 (1.67%) emergency landings occurred for which the most frequent reasons were epilepsy (22.7%) and death (18.2%). Deaths during flights were recorded in 13 patients, whose median age was 77 years (IQR: 69-82), which was significantly higher compared to the age of patients requiring UMS (p < 0.0001). A total of 592 (45%) patients did not require any treatment for UMS. Medical kits and training were found to be sufficient according to the symptomatic treatments.

Conclusion: Most of the urgent cases encountered during flights can be facilitated with basic medical support. "Traumatic emergency procedures inflight medical care" would be useful for additional training. Medical professionals as passengers are significantly involved in encountered emergency situations. Adding automated external defibrillator and pulse oximetry to recommended kits and training can help facilitate staff decisions such as emergency landings and tele-assistance.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerospace Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Travel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Burns / epidemiology
  • Death, Sudden / epidemiology
  • Dyspnea / epidemiology
  • Emergencies
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology
  • Female
  • First Aid / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies