In-flight medical emergencies. One year of experience with the enhanced medical kit

JAMA. 1989 Sep;262(12):1653-6. doi: 10.1001/jama.262.12.1653.


Recent regulations require commercial US aircraft to carry an enhanced medical kit. We reviewed kit use on United Airlines during the initial year of the regulations. We also surveyed passengers who became ill during flight and health care providers who used the new kit. The medical kit was used 362 times on 361 flights (once in every 1900 flights or one use for every 150,000 air travelers). Health care providers indicated that the kit was useful in more than 80% of emergencies and was occasionally lifesaving. In the emergencies in which the kit was used, 70% fell into one of seven major diagnostic groupings, including syncope/near syncope (29%), cardiac/chest pain (16%), asthma/lung disease/shortness of breath (10%), and allergic reactions (5%). With 450 million domestic air travelers per year, we would expect 3000 in-flight medical emergencies annually, and conclude that the enhanced medical kit is beneficial and propose that its effectiveness would be improved by the addition of a bronchodilator for inhalation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aircraft*
  • Emergencies*
  • Female
  • First Aid*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Seasons
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States