When a medical emergency occurs during a commercial flight, health care providers should be prepared to respond. A new review article offers guidance on how to respond to the more common emergencies and on roles and liabilities in offering medical assistance aboard an airplane.
Estimating the frequency of in-flight medical events is challenging because no mandatory reporting system exists. A study of a ground-based communications center that provides medical consultative service to airlines estimated that medical emergencies occur in 1 of every 604 flights. This is likely to be an underestimate, however, because uncomplicated issues are probably underreported.