Cruise ship pathologies in remote regions

Int Marit Health. 2018;69(2):75-83. doi: 10.5603/IMH.2018.0012.


Background: Navigations on cruise ships are rising and tend to spread to remote areas like polar regions. Our aim was to assess the prevalence of pathologies encountered on a cruise ship navigating in remote areas including Polar Seas.

Materials and methods: A prospective observational, descriptive and cross-sectional study was conducted aboard a cruise ship with an overall capacity of 200-264 passengers and 140 crewmembers, sailing in remote areas as the Arctic Ocean and the Antarctic Peninsula over a period of 205 days. The database was built on all first consultations for passengers and crewmembers done by the onboard physician. Each symptom and diagnosis was coded according to the "International Classification of Primary Care, 2nd edition". For statistical analysis, the quantitative data were expressed as mean ± standard deviation and qualitative data as percentages. The percentages were compared using a c2 test corrected according to the Yates' method or by a Fisher test when appropriate.

Results: A total of 446 diagnoses were studied on the 910 consultations originally included (13.7% of the people on board). The median age for the passengers and the crewmembers was respectively 68 (age ranging from 12 to 90) years and 31 (18-62) years. Likewise, the sex ratio (male/female) was 0.98 and 3.23. Infectious diseases were predominant (prevalence of 43.7%). Among them, respiratory infections were the most common and gastroenteritis seemed to be more frequent in passengers (prevalence of 11.5% vs. 5%, p = 0.10). Cutaneous pathologies were more frequent in crewmembers (prevalence of 26.6% vs. 18.7%, p = 0.04) and allergic dermatitis was the second most frequent in this group of patients (prevalence of 7.2%). Cardiovascular diseases, more common in passengers (p = 0.05), represented 4% of all diagnoses. Two cases of phlebitis, one stroke and one subacute heart failure were diagnosed. Among traumatic injuries, cutaneous traumas were the commonest (prevalence of 76.5%). Musculoskeletal traumas were more common in passengers (p = 0.04). An acute gastrointestinal haemorrhage required a medical evacuation from the Antarctic Peninsula.

Conclusions: The physician should be prepared to face emergency cases by developing personal expertise specific to maritime medicine in remote areas. Highlighting the particularity of cases handled in remote areas, our results should also pave the way of the development of medical protocols for ships lacking physician.

Keywords: Antarctica; crewmembers; cruise ship; illness; passengers; remote regions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antarctic Regions
  • Arctic Regions
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Naval Medicine
  • Prospective Studies
  • Ships / statistics & numerical data*
  • Travel / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*