Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Is there a doctor on board? Travelers play valuable role assisting crew in common medical emergencies on flights

Date:
May 29, 2013
Source:
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Summary:
Medical emergencies during commercial airline travel can be a frightening experience, but most situations are well-treated by other passengers and flight attendants, in collaboration with consulting physicians on the ground. A new study has found that doctors, nurses and other medical professionals on the aircraft helped to treat sick fellow passengers in three-fourths of the emergencies studied.

Medical emergencies during commercial airline travel can be a frightening experience, but most situations are well-treated by other passengers and flight attendants, in collaboration with consulting physicians on the ground. A University of Pittsburgh study to be published in the May 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found that doctors, nurses and other medical professionals on the aircraft helped to treat sick fellow passengers in three-fourths of the emergencies studied.

Related Articles


Led by Christian Martin-Gill, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of emergency medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the study examined records of in-flight medical calls from five domestic and international airlines to UPMC's STAT-MD Communications Center, a 24-hour, physician-directed medical command center, from Jan. 1, 2008, through Oct. 31, 2010. Although not required to by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), many airlines use a medical communications facility to consult with physicians on the ground. STAT-MD handled 11,920 in-flight medical calls during the study period. The most common in-flight problems reported were syncope (fainting) or near-syncope, respiratory symptoms, nausea or vomiting, and cardiac symptoms.

Physician passengers provided medical assistance in nearly half of those calls, according to the researchers. Other medical professionals, such as nurses and emergency medical technicians, provided help in another 28 percent of the calls. Flights were diverted to alternate destinations because of medical concerns in only 7.3 percent of the incidents.

Most of the passengers who were treated in-flight had favorable outcomes. According to data for nearly 11,000 of those patients, 25.8 percent were transported to a hospital by emergency medical services; 8.6 percent were admitted, and 0.3 percent died, either on board the aircraft or upon transport to the hospital. The most common causes for admission to a hospital were stroke, respiratory and cardiac symptoms.

The study found that most calls could be managed by the flight attendants, who are trained in emergency protocols and have access to an FAA-required emergency medical kit, along with medical volunteers in the majority of cases. In these cases, ground-based physician consultants provided additional guidance, including use of specific medications in the kit, and assisting the pilot and crew in making decisions regarding need for diversion of the aircraft.

"We wanted to provide a description of the type of emergencies commonly treated on an aircraft, identify the outcomes of these patients and provide an understanding of the treatment capabilities available on the aircraft in the medical kit and through experts on the ground," said Dr. Martin-Gill.

The researchers suggest physicians and others obtain a basic knowledge and awareness of the resources available to them in this unfamiliar and cramped setting to be effective volunteers during an in-flight emergency.

"Commercial air travel is generally safe, and in-flight deaths are rare," said Dr. Martin-Gill. "We hope to look more closely at the most common conditions and which ones require follow-up care so we can better tailor treatment recommendations for passengers."

Co-authors of the paper include Drew Peterson, M.D., Francis Guyette, M.D., M.P.H., Adam Tobias, M.D., M.P.H., Catherine McCarthy, B.S., Scott Harrington, M.D., Theodore Delbridge, M.D., M.P.H., and Donald Yealy, M.D., through the Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The work was funded by National Institutes of Health grants UL1 RR024153 and UL1 TR000005.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Drew C. Peterson, Christian Martin-Gill, Francis X. Guyette, Adam Z. Tobias, Catherine E. McCarthy, Scott T. Harrington, Theodore R. Delbridge, Donald M. Yealy. Outcomes of Medical Emergencies on Commercial Airline Flights. New England Journal of Medicine, 2013; 368 (22): 2075 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1212052

Cite This Page:

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. "'Is there a doctor on board? Travelers play valuable role assisting crew in common medical emergencies on flights." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130529191043.htm>.
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. (2013, May 29). 'Is there a doctor on board? Travelers play valuable role assisting crew in common medical emergencies on flights. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130529191043.htm
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. "'Is there a doctor on board? Travelers play valuable role assisting crew in common medical emergencies on flights." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130529191043.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

Ebola Leaves Orphans Alone in Sierra Leone

AFP (Nov. 27, 2014) — The Ebola epidemic sweeping Sierra Leone is having a profound effect on the country's children, many of whom have been left without any family members to support them. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Trial

Experimental Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Trial

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — A recent test of a prototype Ebola vaccine generated an immune response to the disease in subjects. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Advances in prosthetics are making replacement body parts stronger and more lifelike than they’ve ever been. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins