The safety of air transportation of patients with advanced lung disease. Experience with 21 patients requiring lung transplantation or pulmonary thromboendarterectomy

Chest. 1995 Nov;108(5):1292-6. doi: 10.1378/chest.108.5.1292.


Air travel can cause severe respiratory decompensation in a patient with advanced lung disease due to high altitude hypoxemia. We report our experience in flying 21 patients with advanced lung disease to a medical center remote from Israel for lung transplantation or pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PTE). All patients had severe lung disease with marked hypoxemia (PaO2, 40 to 59) and 16 had significant pulmonary hypertension. Nine patients (with emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis) required single lung transplant, four (with cystic fibrosis and emphysema) required double-lung transplant, six (with primary or secondary pulmonary hypertension) required heart-lung transplant, and two (with major vessel pulmonary thrombosis) required PTE. All patients were flown by commercial aircraft to centers located 2,634 to 13,181 km away from Israel. Length of flight was between 4 and 21 h. Patients were given oxygen supplementation during the flight and were monitored by portable oximeters. All but three patients were hemodynamically stable and 19 of them were escorted by physicians. All but one hemodynamically unstable patient who died on board arrived safely at their destinations. We conclude that with careful preparation, sufficient oxygen supply, oximetric monitoring, and medical escort, almost any patient with severe lung disease can travel by air to any necessary destination.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerospace Medicine
  • Aircraft*
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Endarterectomy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary
  • Hypoxia / therapy
  • Lung Diseases* / physiopathology
  • Lung Diseases* / surgery
  • Lung Transplantation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Embolism* / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Embolism* / surgery
  • Pulmonary Emphysema
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / physiopathology
  • Safety